“You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.”
I used to be a huge John Green fan. I read all of his books, and I really loved some of them. However, the more time I spent away from his books and the older I got, I found more faults in them (no pun intended) and I liked them less. So I wasn’t really sure about picking up his latest novel. However, a flurry of positive reviews came in, and the audiobook was available on Scribd and I thought why not? So let’s talk about it!
This book is ridiculous in its set up – Aza, our protagonists, goes on a mission with her best friend Daisy to find a wealthy businessman who disappeared in order to get a cash reward for it. That businessman happens to be the father of her childhood friend Davis. And there’s a tuatara in it. It’s a lizard.
There’s no doubt about it – this is John Green’s best work. For a number of reasons. First of all, his writing was always good. I really think that Green is a great writer, and this book was no different. The writing was really solid and I really enjoyed it. Second, I personally believe that all of John Green’s books are trying too hard. This one, however, tries too hard, but manages to do what others don’t. This is an own voices novel, and it showed. The book had that level of importance and heaviness that his other books don’t really manage for me. And I really liked that.
This is an own voices novel about a girl who suffers from OCD, and there’s no need for me to tell you that this book nails OCD. I think that Green really managed to convey what a thought spiral or anxiety look like. It felt very real and it felt scary and when he was describing a thought spiral I felt like I was right there in it with Aza, and that’s what you want from a novel. You want the author to be able to convey emotions and experiences his characters go through, and this book is the perfect example.
I think that is the strongest point of this novel and I think that’s its point. I think it’s amazing that there’s good mental health portrayal in a YA novel. And I think the book raises a lot of questions about mental health in general, like medication and the feeling of being a burden because of it. I think that seeing all of this in a book and having the character struggle with it and come to terms with it is really beneficial, especially for teens that struggle with mental health issues. So yeah, I really loved that and I am so glad I finally read a novel where I did not hate the mental health rep. I loved it actually.
I feel like John Green’s books always take a turn for the faux quirky and this one does the same. The whole business with the billionaire going missing, the sort of weird thing where he leaves his fortune to a lizard and not his children and the whole pulling out a book in the house opens a door to the movie theatre is just plain ridiculous and it made me like the book less. I felt it’s severely unrealistic and not to mention unnecessary. It screams I want to make my characters quirky but I don’t know how. I just don’t get it.
A lot of people like to say that John Green’s teenagers don’t talk like teenagers and that they are pretentious. I don’t agree. I find that teenagers are really the people who find John Green’s quotes deep and meaningful. What I mean by it is that I do think that there are certain aspects of his teenager characters that feel unrealistic, but I also don’t think they are pretentious. I really do feel like the age group that will think that stupid Robert Frost quote is so like special, the “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on” is teenagers. I WAS THAT TEEN. Like I had that quote all over my We Heart It and it was in my Facebook bio. It was a thing.
The issue I have is that I can’t stand his characters. I think Aza was a great character, but I think a lot of her character development was focused on her mental health and coming to terms with that, so there wasn’t a lot about her to grab onto. The rest of the characters though? I hated them. I hated both Davis and Daisy. They are insufferable. And that’s my issue with John Green’s characters. I can’t stand them. They annoy me to no end. I feel like there’s always this need for some sort of emotional depth that feels strained and weird and I don’t like it. John Green’s teenagers make me uncomfortable. And I read a lot of YA. Teenagers don’t generally make me uncomfortable.
All in all, I am really glad I read this, because I do think that it’s well written and has terrific (and own voices!) mental health rep. But it never got pass that for me. I would recommend it if you want to read a book about OCD, or mental health issues.
Final verdict: 3.5 stars
I would love to hear from you! Are you a John Green fan? Did you read this book? Any thoughts on it? Let me know!
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