Tag Archives: John Green

The never ever books

Almost exactly seven years ago – when I was a brand new little Bookwitch – I blogged about which book from a list of 100 I would never read. Today the challenge has been upped somewhat, in that I’m supposed to find 100 books I would never read. I blame the Guardian. They started it. Then Maria Nikolajeva picked up the gauntlet and in turn got Clémentine Beauvais to pick hers.

And here I am, copying them, while having no clue what I am about to claim I will never read. So that is fine. I so know what I’m doing.

Anyway, the Guardian’s idea is that what is not on your shelves is more revealing than what is. Although that relies on you giving shelf space only to what you read and like. Some of us have books to show off with, or books we hope to read one day. Some of our best books might not be there at all. We could be in love with novels borrowed from friends and libraries, and actually returned to them again. We are not all shady types who steal what we can’t get hold of by any other means. Tempting, but …

Clémentine seems to agree with me on Martin Amis, so I was more topical than I realised the other day. Between them, she and Maria disagree on John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Clémentine won’t read it and Maria loved it. Well, I have read half, and am more than satisfied not to be taking it any further.

It’s almost impossible to know for certain what you won’t ever read (again). But I do feel very strongly I won’t be going near anything by G P Taylor.

Sitting here and squirming won’t get me to even ten, let alone 100. But I really don’t like saying negative things about books and authors. OK, I have severe reservations about Lionel Shriver and Jeanette Winterson.

Am in agreement with Clémentine on not wanting to read sequels to some books, whether I enjoyed the first one or not. I also have several more than TFIOS as a half-read-but-no-further book. Disagree about The Knife of Never Letting Go, which just got better and better.

It’s a relief to see that one is allowed to have no intention of reading certain classics or the big iconic books. You know, the kind that people you admire swear by, claiming it made them who they are, and all that. On that basis I honestly still don’t expect to read Hilary Mantel, however much Meg Rosoff likes her.

I unpack books from jiffy-bags every week that I will never read. Either because I don’t want to, or because time is limited. And that’s interesting in itself, since whatever people send me, it does tend to be children’s books or crime, which are my favourites. Just think how much worse it would be if my letterbox suddenly started spitting literary novels.

No, I give up. It’s an interesting concept, but I don’t know, and when I do know, I don’t always want to put it in print.

To G P Taylor: I want my wasted week back!

Let It Snow

I quite like a Christmassy story (as long as it’s December), and if you add romance, so much the better.

Let It Snow is a collaboration between current superstar John Green and Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, who do that fun thing, when one starts off with a story, setting the scene for those who follow, meaning you meet people again and again.

Here Maureen sets the stage by stranding a train in a snow drift on Christmas Eve (in North Carolina, I think), meaning her main character Jubilee decides to get off and go in search of a Waffle House (must be an American institution…) that she can see from the train. Her parents were arrested earlier that day and she is on her way to Florida.

I really enjoyed this one, at least once I’d worked out you should take it for granted that the male she meets and goes home with, is a rather nice – and handsome – boy her own age, and not some random man she allows herself to be picked up by. (I was clearly showing my age.)

There’s snow, and waffles and cheerleaders. Those cheerleaders have a lot to answer for.

Let It Snow

John Green follows up with three childhood friends in a house not too far away from our first couple. They embark on a madcap trip through deep snow to actually meet those cheerleaders (why would they want to??), and the game Twister plays a big part. Tinfoil Man turns up, just like he did in the first story.

Lauren’s heroine was perhaps not as likeable, but she serves coffees in Starbucks (practically in the middle of the night…) and looks after a coffecup sized pig for her friend. Or she should be. Her love interest was stranded on the original train, and there is a lot of romance on the go.

Thankfully we never see too much of the cheerleaders; they are more catalysts for the snowbound romance in this small town. It’s all very American, but quite entertaining.

The Guardian 2013 longlist

Might this list change lives, I wonder?

At first I thought there’s not much you can say about a longlist, even though I usually do when the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize lists are published. I toyed with the idea of saying nothing, but then I remembered that fateful list nine years ago. Nine years!

This older reader saw a book called How I Live Now mentioned and just knew she had to read it. (She’s a witch. That’s probably how she knew this.) The book wasn’t even out yet, so had to be ordered and waited for. Not only was it the best book she’d read, but it changed her life.

So perhaps one of the books on this year’s list will have that effect on someone, somewhere?

Of the eight, I have read three and a half. All would be worthy winners. The half, too. I can only assume the remaining four are pretty good as well. They could all be life-changers, and not necessarily for the authors.

Sally Gardner, Maggot Moon

David Almond, Gillian Cross, Sally Gardner, John Green and Rebecca Stead have already done well. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t go on and do even more well. Katherine Rundell, William Sutcliffe and Lydia Syson are new to me, but so was Meg Rosoff that time. She turned out all right, didn’t she?

I hope someone finds the reading passion of their life in amongst these books.

And then there’s the competition for critics aged 17 and under to write a review of  one of the books. In the nine years since my moment of discovery I have been acquainted with two such young winners. I hope winning changed something for them too.

You just never know what will be waiting round the corner. It could be a literary longlist.

(I seem to recall people expect me to predict. OK, the shortlist – because that’s all the predicting you get at this point – will be Gillian Cross, Sally Gardner, John Green and William Sutcliffe. And I’ve used Sally’s book cover here because Maggot Moon is truly extraordinary, and since the other books are pretty marvellous, that tells you how good it is. The 2004 winner agrees with me.)

Green brothers at the Monastery

The Monastery

I was so not worthy of this! Who did I think I was, taking a chair from a real fan? And what a chair it was! Front row at the Monastery in Manchester. (Gorton, actually, so it required some travelling, but not as much as the fans who came from all over the country. For a book event. Seems I’m not the only crazy person around.)

With the fantastic – but not exactly central – Monastery as the venue for John Green’s event, I had pondered how his teenage fans would get there. On the same bus as me, in fact. I lost count of the number of girls who got on, buying a ticket for the Monastery. And it was my second event in two days running where people simply ‘love ice cream.’

The Monastery

So there we were, for the cult event of the year, the real fans, and me. Around a thousand of us? I don’t know. It’s a big church and it was sold out and it was packed. Not to the rafters, but that’s only because the rafters were pretty high up in this case. All candle lit. Some fans had arrived hours before the event began.

John Green

John is very much a cult star, totally unheard of by the rest of us. He and his brother Hank are in Britain for several sold out events, to publicise his new book The Fault In Our Stars, about a teenager dying of cancer. (I know.) I had barely begun reading it, wanting to come to the event cold, to see what I thought.

Arriving on stage accompanied by more noise than your average popstar, John promised us he would slap his brother before the evening was out. Or vice versa. He borrowed someone’s copy of the book and read to us from the first chapter.

Then this former ‘bad chaplain’ advocated dropping out of school, talked about his nerdfighters (no, I don’t know, either) before inviting Hank to sing. The audience knew every word of every song! Which was lucky, considering how often he lost track of where he was. He sang some Harry Potter songs, and then John was back explaining about manic pixie dream girls. They don’t exist, apparently.

Hank Green

While Hank had been entertaining us, John picked out the best of the questions fans had written for him, and the good thing about fervent fans is the high quality of their questions. He doesn’t know anything about the film. The title of the book is too long for the New York Times bestseller list, and he himself doesn’t think his books are good. (Obviously John is on the NYT list – no. 1 – and the books are OK too.)

Hank and John Green and Jennifer Pinches

After John and Hank had twerked a bit (cross between twitching and jerking, maybe?) they invited Olympic star Jennifer Pinches to ask them questions against the clock (to determine who would get to slap whom), and they swiftly covered zombies, hair softness, marmite (no, it’s not food), drunken rugby fans on the tube, burning down the Monastery, and whether they thought Jesus might fall down on them where they were. As in right underneath.

John failed completely at saying Förr eller senare exploderar jag, which is something I could have assisted with. It’s the Swedish title for The Fault In Our Stars, and by happy coincidence I came upon that very phrase as soon as I continued reading on the way home.

Before Hank slapped him, John took off his glasses.

Hank sang a My Little Pony Song. He seemed quite knowledgeable, for a 31-year-old boy.

This kind of huge event means there isn’t time for normal signing or posing for photos. The signing was as ‘for cattle, only faster’ and John and Hank posed for photos on the stage, leaving room for you to photoshop yourself next to them. The signing queue was possibly made shorter by John having signed all the books (included in the ticket price) in advance, in blue and red, to cover all tastes of soccer affiliation.

Hank and John Green

Telling us we didn’t actually have to stay, they said they were very grateful to us for coming, and then offered a last song about fish sex. Because this was not your average or even vaguely normal book event, we got another final song, where even John sang. A little.

After that encore, the cattle was herded out for the booksigning queue, which I joined on account of being fifth in line. When he asked, I told John I was fine. Then he moved on to the next cow.

John Green

At that point I decided that a brisk walk to a further away bus stop meant I wouldn’t have to share a bus with five hundred other heads of cattle. So I did. On my subsequent train, I peered at what the girl in front of me was reading. Another of John’s books. This cult person will be mainstream before he knows what hit him. Hank. We know.

(If you need to learn about the Green brothers, try their famous vlogs. Like all online successes they began six years ago. Cough.)

Hank and John Green

While you do that, I’m going to see if I can learn to photoshop…