The Great Perhaps

Looking for Alaska by John GreenLooking for Alaska by John Green
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages: 256
My copy: ebook, bought from Amazon Kindle Store

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.

* * *

I have been seeing John green’s novels for a while now, but I never had the time to pick them up. I think I saw Paper Towns first, but they reviews were saying that Looking for Alaska has more awards, so I was always on the lookout for it. Of course, I promptly forgot all about it, until I saw other book bloggers I am following posting reviews on his books. After one particularly boring night at work where I wrestled with the urge to buy a new book, I got this one, thinking his first novel should be a good place to discover if John Green is really as good as people say he is.

I guess I wasn’t sure what I was expecting in this novel, except maybe for a dorky guy character to fall in love with a cool but not exactly popular girl, and will turn his world upside down as he tries to get out of his shell to impress her. I can’t remember where I read this, but I hear John Green is the king of nerdy guys in contemporary YA. I have yet to prove that, but with Looking for Alaska, I was very surprised. I can’t say pleasantly, but I was surprised.

I won’t say much about the story, so as not to ruin a reading experience of those who haven’t read this yet. Looking for Alaska is about Miles “Pudge” Halter, who transfers to Culver Creek Boarding School in search of The Great Perhaps. Here he meets new friends Chip “The Colonel” Martin and Takumi, and Alaska Young, the girl across the hall that rocks Miles’ world and ultimately divides his world into a “Before” and “After”. I wasn’t sure about what “After” meant in the book until I got to it, and that was where I experienced John Green’s magic with words.

The question that readers will get here is the same question that Alaska and the other characters wrestled with: How will I get out of this labyrinth of suffering? I admit that it’s not a question that I would ask myself. I’m generally a cheerful and happy person, with random bursts of sentimentality and sadness every now and then. I can relate to Miles a lot in the sense that his life is generally okay: good parents, good school, and no big traumatic problems in his past. Save for the lack of a group of friends (or even just a single friend), we’re pretty much the same. I guess I can say his approach to the labyrinth would be essentially the same as mine: pretend it doesn’t exist, and live in a self-sufficient world. But one can only live like that for so long, until the suffocation of living on my own will crush me and break me, just as like those people who get lost in their own labyrinths. I don’t think there is ever one answer to this question, because I think every person has their own labyrinths, and it’s never the same with others. I thought that Miles’ answer to the question was brilliant, though, and it may be one of good exit plans that other people (myself included) use in their own labyrinths.

I don’t know if that paragraph made sense, but I hope it does when you decide to read this book. Looking for Alaska is more than your nerdy guy meets cool girl and things change story. This is a surprisingly heavy book that deals with a lot of growing up issues, yet John Green’s prose made it somewhat light and funny, and poignant all at the same time. This isn’t the same world I grew up in (with all the smoking and sex and all that going on. And by smoking, it’s real cigarettes and not the fake ones, so no one is wondering about the taste of an electronic cigarettes), but this world felt real and their situations were something that I know other teens can get into, and it’s something that I appreciate. John Green doesn’t sacrifice dialogue for it to sound real (one that I think Take Me There by Susane Colasanti kind of failed in), but instead makes use of the setting and the situations to bring us all into Miles’ world.

I think my favorite lesson in Looking for Alaska was how you never really own a person, regardless of your relation to him or her. I don’t know about you, but I know I have a tendency to feel like I own the person just because we’re friends, or because I like the person. It’s like their world should revolve around me, because my world can easily revolve around them — it’s just fair, right? But the truth is, we never own anyone, and there’s always something we don’t know about the other person even if we feel like we know them, like we’ve figured them out. We may be important to the other person, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think other people are also important, or that other people think the world of them like you do. The best thing we can do for the people that mean a lot to us is to love them and accept them and forgive them and be content at the fact that they will always surprise us. It may not always be in a good way, but it was what made Miles like, love and forgive Alaska for in the end.

This isn’t my favorite, but I liked Looking for Alaska. It’s left me hopeful and smiling and thinking of things that I have never really thought about, or at least, never really bothered to think about. I am definitely going to read the rest of John Green’s novels.

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 71 out of 100 for 2010

My copy: ebook, Advanced Reading Copy from Netgalley

Cover & Blurb: Goodreads

Comic Books and Launches

So it’s been a pretty eventful week for me, but not in blogging because I didn’t really post that much this week compared to last. For a change, I was busy reading, squeeing about certain books, and talking to people face to face.

Yes, I still have a social life, thankyouverymuch. :)

So, what’s been happening the past week (and a day)?

Metro Comicon


Saturday last week, I ventured into the city and out of my comfort zone to tag along with some of the boys from my Goodreads group to attend the Metro Comicon at SM Megamall. Now, I’m really not a comic person, but I recently bought Happyface before that Saturday, so I thought…why not look around? Plus, I was also hoping I’d find a copy of AEIOU or An Easy Intimacy of Us by Jeff Brown (one that I started to want to have after I read the review at Pinoy Pop) there. I have zero knowledge about other comics, but I figure it shouldn’t be that different from when I go and look at books, right?

Well, it wasn’t, really. I didn’t find AEIOU, and I ended up not buying anything after. I still had fun, though, if only because I got to watch some of the boys look like kids on Christmas morning as they had their favorite comic books signed by the writers and the artists. Ace and I were just watching them, then — he was just there to have his friend’s copy of Trese signed, and we were amused at how Jzhun and Ariel looked like how we do when we see books we love and all that. Ah, bookworm quirks. :)

This picture is a bit blurry, but trust me, their eyes were sparkling. ;)

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Happyface

Happyface by Stephen Emond

Happyface by Stephen Emond
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Number of pages:  307
My copy: hardbound, bought from Fully Booked

Just put on a happy face!

Enter Happyface’s journal and get a peek into the life of a shy, artistic boy who decides to reinvent himself as a happy-go-lucky guy after he moves to a new town. See the world through his hilariously self-deprecating eyes as he learns to shed his comic-book-loving, computer-game playing ways. Join him as he makes new friends, tries to hide from his past, and ultimately learns to face the world with a genuine smile. With a fresh and funny combination of text and fully integrated art, Happyface is an original storytelling experience.

* * *

The bright yellow cover called me the moment I entered the YA section of Fully Booked Eastwood. It was bright, and the smiley made an interesting cover, and when I took a peek inside, I saw that it was a book…with drawings!

But what really convinced me to buy is when I removed the half dust jacket and saw this:

With dust jacket

With the half dust jacket, it’s Happyface!

Without the half dust jacket

And then…awwww. :(

This certainly got me very, very curious. How can a book entitled “Happyface” have a sad face inside?

Happyface is the journal of a boy who has been christened Happyface by the girl he likes because of his sense of humor and his happy demeanor. Happyface is a high school sophomore, and a shy, artistic kid who tries to reinvent himself when he moves to a new town. The journal contains the account of the school year, from June to March, as he tries to make friends, ask out the girl he liked and be the happy person that everyone expects him to be.

This isn’t exactly a comic book, but it’s also not a plain novel. I like reading journal-type novels because I like first person accounts, and I’m a journal keeper myself. The drawings in this book are fascinating and entertaining at the same time. Look:

Happyface: Family spread

Happyface: Family

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Sixfold, Sevenfold

The Sevenfold Spell by Tia NevittThe Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt
Carina Press, 97 pages

Have you ever wondered what happens to the other people in the fairy tale?

Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying “good” fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.

Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.

Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia’s prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation, which plays right into the evil fairy’s diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she’s willing to make?

Out of all the Disney princesses, I find Princess Aurora a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty the prettiest. Maybe I’m biased because I like them blonde, and she seemed like the most poised, most elegant of them all. But that maybe because she slept for a hundred years, and it must be hard to move after lying down for so long. I mean, I find my back and bones stiff after I sleep for more than ten hours, what more hundred years.

Tia Nevitt’s retelling is by far the most unique one I’ve encountered of all retellings I’ve read so far. Instead of focusing on the main character, the author shifts the focus to the people we readers rarely focus on in a story, to some random person in the town. The usual faceless and nameless people in the crowds are put into spotlight in The Sevenfold Spell, putting quite a unique twist in the story of Sleeping Beauty.

This is a quick read, more of a novella than a novel. However, the first part of the book felt long for me. Terribly long, mostly because of all the sex. I wasn’t expecting that, really, but I was surprised to read that Talia would resort to that to cure her of her loneliness. Mind you, she didn’t really become a whore so she could earn money — she did it out of loneliness.

I can’t really question the motivations of the characters, given Talia’s situation. Reading this told me that I am pretty conservative with what I read, and I could only stand to read so much sex in one book before I feel sick of reading it. I’m not saying that they were pointless in the book — I got the point. It had some kind of bearing in the story that made the character grow, which was good. I liked how Talia eventually outgrew her need for physical intimacy, and instead focused on other more important things, like patching things up with her mother (who can’t get any other livelihood besides making thread using their spinning wheel –health care jobs are not so hot in their time). I just didn’t like reading about how Talia did it with Willard and how Talia seduced an old man to do it with her. Just not my thing.

Fortunately, the story picked up by the second half, and there was a surprising twist. The resolution felt a bit too easy, and too clean cut for my taste. I guess that’s where the author really meant to go, to a happily ever after ending. It is a fairy tale, after all.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book. It’s just not for me, I guess. If I want another retelling, I think I’ll stick with Gail Carson-Levine and similar authors.

The Sevenfold Spell will be out on September 2010. Much thanks to NetGalley for the advanced reading copy ebook!

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 71 out of 100 for 2010

My copy: ebook, Advanced Reading Copy from Netgalley

Cover & Blurb: Goodreads