“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green & David Levithan

9781921656231

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read. It is a collaboration between two of the most eminent YA authors – John Green and David Levithan. As a rule I avoid these kind of novels because I believe literature is an individualistic experience for both the author and the reader. Ideas and writing styles are emblematic of one’s personality and that is precisely what has made “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” such an exquisite book.

It is told by the perspective of two namesakes. The odd Will Grayson is created by John Green. He is a fairly unpopular guy with wrinkled clothes and two main principles: 1. Don’t care. 2.Shut up. He tries to live his life without setting off any alarms – seldom talking, seldom expressing himself. “Not that smart. Not that hot. Not that nice. Not that funny. That’s me: I’m not that.”

The even will grayson who is never properly capitalized is written by David Levithan. He suffers from depression and denies himself any happiness besides an internet romance with a guy named Isaac. He suffers from depression and avoids any social interactions whatsoever. “i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me. those seem to be the two choices. everything else is just killing time.”

Even though there are two first-person narratives, I feel like the story revolved mostly around the life and musical of Tiny Cooper. “I’m a football player. Dude, you couldn’t be gayer. I thought my straight-acting deserved a Tony. But, Tiny, you own a thousand My Little Ponies!” And on top of that, Tiny is pretty hefty.

Being in love with will grayson and being Will Grayson’s best friend, he is inspired to write a musical about love, called “Hold me Closer”. This school production scrutinizes the meaning of all relationships and their main values. Honesty? Affection? Attraction? Profound care? Benefits? Or trial-and-error?

Tiny Cooper holds the answer to all these questions. He provokes each namesake to rediscover and rethink the importance of the people in their lives. Both Wills struggle to learn to accept and appreciate their friends and relatives despite the pesky and narcissistic propensities of human nature. There is no avoiding the duplicity in one’s predilection for another person. We are all multifaceted “pseudointelectuals” with uncanny interests and infinitely various responds to provocations and stress.

I can’t help but adulate the genius of incorporating the Schrodinger’s cat in the plot. It proves that truth is the key to happiness in any relationship. It is the only trustworthy variable in the whole wide world. Because everything is possible until you apply it to the harshness and single-optioned test of reality. When we are candid with ourselves, we could easily decide who to let in and who to let out of our lives without any regrets. Not seeking the truth, however, doesn’t mean we have come to a conclusion. It means that we are narrow-minded.

We can’t endow people with plain labels – like or dislike, and dismiss them out of hand down to a single trait. We have to absorb them in their total magnificence – all the bad and all the good, all the repulsive and all the charming. We have to get the cat and the radioactive poison in the box first. And then judge. Is the cat dead? Or is it alive? Is this relationship worth it? Or should there be a preemptive dump?

“Keeping the box closed just keeps you in the dark, not the universe.”.

This book reinforces this statement in every imaginable way – through the development of its characters, through its plot twists, through its denouement and through its very publication. Who thought that John Green and David Levithan’s style could blend and complement each other in such a spectacular dance of world, imploding with wisdom, personalities, bathed in profoundness and an ending, unprecedented in beauty.

I am Mery and I appreciate you, Tiny Cooper.

Mery

Mery

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“The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness

knife-of-never-letting-go

What if everyone could hear your thoughts? There would be nothing concealed from the world. But what if you could hear everyone’s thoughts too? And the entire jumble inside every head turns into a never stopping noise. You don’t have to ponder too much over this quite extravagant idea if you read ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’. Patrick Ness gives his readership an amazing insight of a civilization where silence doesn’t exist.

Welcome to the New World and welcome to Prentisstown. It is no ordinary place because every man can hear every other man’s thoughts whether they like it or not. Everything that pops inside one’s head is spilled into to the atmosphere like an aura that constantly surrounds him. In such a place Todd Hewitt has been born and has spent his entire life in. He is the last boy left in the town but that’s all about to change for his birthday is only a month away. When he steps in his 13th year he will finally become a man. But what will happen then?

Some days before the big day, Todd and his dog Manchee (who also has his very ‘complicated’ thoughts around his bouncing head) stumble across a completely quiet area not far from the town. This is absolutely impossible for even in the most desolated areas the low buzz of people’s thoughts flying around is always present. In this patch of absolute silence our young hero discovers that until now he has been wrapped in lies. Something horrible has been hidden from him, something so terrible that every man in Prentisstown has managed to keep away from their noise and from the last boy. A secret so awful that puts Todd and Manchee in grave danger. And now the two companions must run for their lives.

And that’s how Todd sets on an incredible journey which will bring him face to face with the past and some of the possible futures. And he will seek for his inner self and his true purpose. For if you are not yet a man and you are no longer a boy – what are you? But him being perceived as a child saves him from the absolute brutality of the secret all the men of Prentisstown keep away.

For even in your thoughts you can hide away anything you want. Just because everything that’s inside your mind buzzes around you non stop doesn’t mean that all is true. Lies can put up front to cover up something else. Not only that: some of the most respectable people hide behind words of wisdom. If you walk by the church radiating from Aaron are the words: ‘God hears everything.’ And if you pass by Prentiss’ house the mantra ‘I am the circle and the circle is me’ is constantly repeated. The objective is to gain control over one’s noise. But whose technique is better: the priest’s whose thoughts are pure or the mayor whose noise is a profound sentiment? It is up to you to find out.

Patrick Ness gives an incredible tour inside Todd’s head. For the book is written from his perspective and includes a jumbled and confused vocabulary, various fonts and forms of speech and some grammar mistakes. But all of those characteristics give the novel an authentic look for no teenager can sound like a well educated adult. It may be a little bit unnerving but it stops bothering when the reader fully immerges in the story.

’The Knife of Never Letting Go’ is the perfect beginning for the trilogy ‘Chaos Walking’ for it is brilliant yet dark so brace yourselves. It’s not a sensitive novel but one that will keep you on edge and make you wonder about the cruelty of men. Patrick Ness gives you this fantastic gift which you must not walk by in the bookstore. Don’t waste more time and grab the first book and dig in!

Sophie

Sophie

“Slaughterhouse – Five” by Kurt Vonnegut

“Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time… He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the events in between… Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren’t necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next.”

“Slaughterhouse – Five” recounts Billy’s dalliance in the World War II as a chaplain’s assistant and an optometrist-to-be. Clad in Cinderella’s silver boots and a civilian’s miniature coat, he is an epitome of the pathos and preposterousness of the American soldiers. His appearance and ridiculous military preparation delineate the idea that foolish virgins, discouraged from being characters and fighting for their true beliefs, go to war – as the original title of the book “Children’s Crusades” suggests.

However, due to Billy’s extraordinary ability to foray into his past and his future, we get a general notion of his whole life, which has been incredulously influenced by the fiction work of the apocryphal author Kilgore Trout. We trace Mr. Pilgrim’s imponderable adventures as he witnesses the bombing of Dresden, becomes a prominent optometrist, marries a plump woman with a sweet tooth, is abducted by Trafalmadorians  and has a fling with Montana Wildhack – a pornographic sensation. And in the end, we see his own end. ” So it goes.”

What fascinated me most in the book was the aliens’ philosophy of life. They have an astoundingly distinct approach to everyday happenstances, believing that one should focus only on the pleasant aspects, and neglect all the poignant occurrences.  “Later on in life, the Trafalmadorians would advise Billy to concentrate on the happy moments of his life, and to ignore the unhappy ones – to stare only at the pretty things as eternity fails to go by.”

But it’s not their attitude or appearance that mostly distinguishes them from us. It’s the way they comprehend time. We see life as a series of pictures in an endless game of “Tag”. Each moment is tenuous – distorted and maimed by the ones preceding it and the ones trailing it. But Trafalmadorians apprehend the eternity of each moment. “It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.”

That’s why they never mourn, or shed even a single tear for the late ones. “So it goes”, a Trafalmadorian would say and pass any corpse as nonchalantly as one passes a gray pebble. It’s a beautiful consolation that each dead person is very much alive and robust at some other time. They are dead only in this particular moment so it is imbecile to grieve and weep at funerals. Instead, we should rejoice at all the happiness this creature has had, has and always will have. For “all moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.”

These wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff enable Billy to leap across his own timeline and relive random moments of his ephemeral existence, reviewing the choices he has made and their insignificance because “only on Earth is there any talk of free will”.

“Slaughterhouse – Five” is a brilliant novel by Kurt Vonnegut, as disjointed and unstuck in time as its protagonist. It offers us an objective view on the way we interpret life and the vitality with which we endow all that befalls us. If you want a fresh breath from the consistent, straightforward literature whose characters control their past, present and future, this is the book for you.

Mery

Mery

“Inferno” by Dan Brown

inferno

After 5 years of silence, Dan Brown re-appears on the shelves of every book store. If you’ve been an avid fan of Robert Langdon’s impossible adventures, hold tight, because this new novel features our beloved American professor. And yeah, he finds himself in another pickle. But this time it is different. The title ‘Inferno’ is closely linked with Dante’s epic creation – ‘The Divine Comedy’. Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to read the mandatory literature from school. Well, better late than never.

Not reading Dante’s Inferno is not a problem. There are little hints that may be overlooked but the most of the book, Dan Brown explains all of the connections between his story and the decent in hell of the Italian poet. After all it is the antagonist who is a passionately obsessed with ‘The Divine Comedy’ and its supposed message to the world. But let’s start from the beginning of Robert Langdon’s problems.

The Harvard professor wakes up in a hospital with a near fatal head wound with no memories of the past two days. There he is thrown in a hex in which a hit man – or in this case hit woman – is desperately trying to kill him. Thanks to the quickly thinking Sienna Brooks, a doctor who happens to be around Langdon when all hell breaks loose, he manages to escape, for now. But the most shocking discovery the professor makes is that he has miraculously teleported in Florence. Not only is he in the wrong time, but he is also in the wrong place. He has no recollection of leaving America but then again his brain draws a blank of the last two days. And if you think he can sit back and relax and think about the mess he has found himself in, think again.

A madman who believes that Dante’s work is a near future prophecy is set out to release a plague that in his head will cure the biggest problem humanity has – overpopulation. And it is up to Robert Langdon to save the day. But it’s not that easy. Even though the professor has his brain filled with knowledge of history, art and symbols he is confronted with a series of problems he can not overlook: the loss of his memories and a whole group of very influential and powerful enemies who seem to do everything to get their hand on Robert and his unusual possession. And help doesn’t seem to come from nowhere. Trust becomes a serious issue and the lost American doesn’t know who he can believe. Will he manage to be on time to save the world? Only one way of finding out – read the book.

Dan Brown has a very respectful look on the surroundings. As our heroes run and hide in the heart of Italy, the author never fails to attract attention to the historical and art monuments the intense action passes by. And when your protagonist is a writer of books on symbols and their different meanings, the reader receives all the information needed without looking up things on Wikipedia. It’s all part of the story and that makes the novel even more breathtakingly interesting.

’Inferno’ not only makes you want to travel the whole of Florence and retrace the steps of Langdon and Sienna but it also puts forward a lot of controversial questions. The problem with overpopulation is very real and it makes you re-think the values of humanity. Because, let’s face it, when a crisis in this degree appears it is human nature to hide behind denial. But as Dante said it is the darkest places in hell that are reserved for people who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.

But don’t be scared. Even if the book is serious it only adds to its value as good literature. Dan Brown gives you an action-packed, sit-tight-and-hold-your-breath, makes-you-want-to-scream novel that will leave you pondering after you’ve turned the last page. And as always there is a plot twist which is just like a lightning bolt from a clear sky. So don’t try to guess what’s going on – you have no chance. So don’t waste any more time and grab ‘Inferno’. Also if you haven’t read Dante’s classic, it is high time to do it.

Sophie

Sophie

“The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand

the fountainhead

“The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand is one of those few novels which imbue you with an evangelical zeal. Not merely due to their exquisite rendition, scintillating philosophy and out-of-this-world characters, but because they celebrate life as an unique opportunity to create and relish in the creations of the others.  They exalt us, transient beings, and accolade the miracle of our existence and conscience. These rare books conjure up the realization that we have the power to shape the world as long as we are consistent with our aspirations.

“The Fountainhead” delineates an utopia. It describes a world where among the corrupted, the based and the promiscuous, there are few individuals with indomitable will and ethereal morals, who have remained untarnished in the mass’s stampede towards authority, public commendation, self-aggrandizement and exultation.

I fell in love with one such marvelous maverick – Howard Roark.

Roark is a brilliant young architect whose audacious, innovative work is denigrated and condemned by society.  All the events and somewhat peculiar and irrelevant at first glance situations, recounted in the book, have an impact on Roark’s life and struggle against the current. We trace his development as a character by his conversations, the public opinion of his designs and the contrast between him and the other secondary characters. I enjoyed how the novel was woven in a ceaseless crescendo, leading up to the spellbinding moment when Roark prevails over the conservative and prejudiced mind of society.

“Everything has strings leading to everything else. We’re all so tied together. We’re all in a net, the net is waiting, and we’re pushed into it by one single desire. You want a thing and it’s precious to you. Do you know who is standing ready to tear it out of your hands? You can’t know, it may be so involved and so far away, but someone is ready, and you’re afraid of them all. And you cringe and you crawl and you beg and you accept them-just so they’ll let you keep it. And look at whom you come to accept.”

But precisely Howard’s reluctance to accede to collaboration and compromise inaugurates the main motif in the novel – the opposition of individualism to collectivism, and vice versa.  Through the exploits of Ellsworth Toohey ( a journalist,  connoisseur at architecture and potentate-to-be who is the evil incarnate), Gail Wynand (owner of the most lurid New York newspaper who daily  yields his principles to the rancorous mobs), Peter Keating (a third-rate architect who seeks public approval and whose prime driving force is envy) and Dominique Francon (a pulchritudinous young woman who despises mankind for its volatility and servility) Ayn Rand explores the confrontation between people with indefeasible ideals and people who jump in on the bandwagon at the drop of a hat.

In the beginning of the 20th century when North America is reaching its apotheosis, the media and the press have a great influence on the mindset of the ordinary man. Whatever journalists and reporters preach, the readers and the viewers imbibe. As communism and tyranny take over Europe, the citizens of the New World rely mostly on those who have established themselves as intellectuals and philosophers, professing the common good. They absorb others’ opinions not only on political issues but in the fields of art, literature, architecture, theatre and music.

“Ibsen is good”, said Ike.
“Sure he’s good but suppose I didn’t like him. Suppose I wanted to stop people from seeing his plays. It would do me no good whatever to tell them so. But if I sold them the idea that you’re just as great as Ibsen – pretty soon they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference…then it wouldn’t matter what they went to see at all. Then nothing would matter – neither the writers nor those for whom they wrote.”

Ayn Rand proves that deplorable men, such as Toohey, who can easily relegate and debase outstanding playwrights, while promoting awkward authors and left-handed architects, can also brainwash mankind in support of their rise to authority over a vacuous uniform mob.

“The world of the future. The world I want. A world of obedience and of unity. A world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to guess the thought of the next neighbour who’ll have no thought – and so on, Peter, around the globe. Since all must agree with all. A world where no man will hold a desire for himself, but will direct all his efforts to satisfy the desires of his neighbour who’ll have no desires except to satisfy the desires of the next neighbour, who’ll have no desires – around the globe, Peter. Since all must serve all. A world in which man will not work for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster – prestige. The approval of his fellows – their good opinion – the opinion of men who’ll be allowed to hold no opinion. An octopus, all tentacles and no brain.”

These men grow capable of upsetting the meaning of fundamental concepts such as selfishness and selflessness. In its essence egotism is one’s undeniable right to champion their own ideals and to strive for their mental freedom. Whereas selflessness is a loathsome dependence on others to exist, not because of indigence but because of a privation of personality, self.  Such selfless people are portrayed  in the book as parasites who feed on vicarious ideas and subjugate themselves to the mentality of the masses by begrudging freedom on the whole. But our understanding of those two words is antagonistic.

Self –ish. Self-less.

It is a cunning wordplay in which Howard Roark’s credos gain ebullience. His refusal to be obsequious and to betray himself so as to obviate opposition impressed me tremedously. “I often think that he’s the only one of us who’s achieved immortality. I don’t mean in the sense of fame and I don’t mean that he won’t die some day. But he’s living it. I think he is what the conception really means. You know how people long to be eternal. But they die with every day that passes. When you meet them, they’re not what you met last. In any given hour, they kill some part of themselves. They change, they deny, they contradict—and they call it growth. At the end there’s nothing left, nothing unreversed or unbetrayed; as if there had never been any entity, only a succession of adjectives fading in and out on an unformed mass. How do they expect a permanence which they have never held for a single moment? But Howard—one can imagine him existing forever.”

Even though the characters in the novel seem impossible, I believe that the embellishment and hyperbole of some of their traits makes them consummate paragons. They could serve as irrefragable role models to anyone who has lost their way or is looking for a meaningful purpose. They express the heroic and the hallowed in all human beings.

In its essence “The Fountainhead” acclaims all selfish, unadulterated human features and emotions such as torrid romance, high expectations, pride, self-belief, intransigence and the unfailing wish to conquer the unfathomable.

It is a read that will undoubtedly inspire you to be you.

 

Mery

Mery