I first encountered John Green via his Crash Course Youtube channel, and later vlogbrothers. When I realized he had written some well-received novels, I wanted to read one, and this happened to be the one the airport bookstore had as I waited in freezing rain for my flight to be cancelled.
The cool thing about having listened to John explain world history to me before was that his speaking style and voice was in my head throughout a lot of reading this book. Especially the slow, deliberate way he reads Mystery Documents. And I like that. I think too often I read too quickly and don’t really appreciate what’s on the page. Reading in John’s voice makes me take a slower pace and savour each phrase. It definitely fits with his style of writing which is maybe a bit to heavy-handed at times, but never bad for sure. Not like too flowerly undergraduate essays, but maybe just… I don’t know. Actually pretty interesting to read.
Anyway, the general setting and arc isn’t that unique; a year in the life of a teenage kid at a new school trying to make new friends and going through big life changing events. Think Perks of Being a Wallflower, or A Separate Peace. Nonetheless it’s well done and worth the read. The characters are good, and the “before”/”after” structure is very effective, especially if you don’t know what will cause the transition from one to the other. (Some summaries of the book do give away that point, including the one on the copyright page which may show up in things like library listings, so beware.)
Of course I have to nitpick and say that there were a couple errors. One was probably a typo we can ignore, but one was EGREGIOUS. 101 days before: “Our first significant precalc test was only two days away”. 100 days before: “I’d just gotten my precalc test back.” DOES NOT COMPUTE.
The only thing I didn’t like though, was the ending, by which I mean (without giving it away) what Pudge wrote. It was complete BS woo, and even if that’s a realistic thing a kid in his position may have written, it still made me want to hit my head against the wall. It’s a small part of the book as a whole, but as the last note it’s a sour one for me. It won’t stop me from trying another one of his books, but it’ll make me wince a bit when remembering it.