‘At the time I first realised I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institute on North side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time – between 12:37 and 1:14 PM – by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them.’
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
What I thought
It’s been a while since I read a John Green and I’ve always found them quite hit or miss, although my sister and some of my friends are massive fans of his books and his vlogs. From the beginning I was reminded of why I find them so hit or miss, he’s got a very recognisable style of ‘why use one short word where 3 long ones will do’. That’s not necessarily bad but it is a thing. And sometimes I’m not reading a book to be taught new words, I just want to enjoy the story. But it’s clear that he loves words and language, especially words that have fallen out of fashion or out of common parlance. Personally I can find the flowery language a bit over the top at times, like he’s trying to show off all the different words he knows, and they can pull me out of the story.
But after the first couple of pages I was able to put that personal bug bear aside (note: his way with words is beautiful but it does at times pull me out of the story. Sometimes I wonder what younger readers think about these words, do they have to look some up and in which case it is literally pulling them away as they type it into their phones and check Google.) I was able to just enjoy the story.
At its heart this is a mystery story, and ,as with all John Green stories, it’s got a strong friendship that has a few wobbles as the two girls struggle to understand each other and to get their point across. It almost goes without saying that the main character has a ‘thing’, in this case Aza has chronic extreme anxiety. I really enjoy how all of Green’s characters have their own ‘thing’ depression, anxiety, it’s about normalising these things but not belittling them. Everyone has anxiety about some things, everyone goes through moments of extreme sadness, but it’s not the same as being a chronic depressive or having chronic anxiety. There’s a point where Aza explains her anxiety really well, her and Daisy are in a dark tunnel (don’t ask) and while Daisy is scared Aza isn’t. She makes Aza turn off the light and thn they theorise about everything and anything that could be waiting for them in the darkness and how it could kill them, or at least hurt them. And then Aza turns her headlight back on again, she has the control to stop all those fears and spiraling thoughts by simply turning on the light. Her anxiety is like living in the darkness all the time but it’s only dark for her, everyone else is in the light and can see there is nothing to worry about.
One of the things that I loved about this book is the way it realistically dealt with the people on the sidelines of anxiety. Living with anxiety can be hellish but it is almost as hard to watch someone you love suffer from it as well. There are things that Daisy and Aza don’t do because Aza’s anxiety doesn’t let her. And Daisy just takes it in her stride as much as possible but when she can’t she writes. this is a girl after my own heart in her fanfic Aza’s anxiety has its own character – someone that everyone loves to hate. This gives Daisy the reprieve she needs without taking it out on Aza (athlough as in any friendship there are inevitable arguments). I loved how it was looked at Daisy knows that it’s not Aza’s fault and that Aza hates that they can’t go do ‘normal’ things. Using her writing as a way to get her emotions out is a really good one and it grew into more than just that, it stopped being a way to kill off anthropomorphised anxiety and into a real passion.
Although the mystery is the plan plot I found it easy enough to ignore, I wasn’t too fussed about what had happened to Davis’ dad as I cared more about the friendships between Aza and Daisy and Aza and Davis. However it’s a well written mystery and the pay off didn’t feel fake, i hadn’t worked out what was going on but I wasn’t too surprised at it. I think I might have worked it out if I’d cared a bit more about it.
Why I read it
As I said at the beginning my sister and one of my best mates are big John Green fans and they kept reminding me that I had this one to read. I had preordered it but because it came out at the same time as a couple of other books I’d preordered (including the new Brandon Sanderson) it fell at the wayside. I picked it up now because it had been annoying me how long it was staring at me on the bookcase.
Once I’d reminded myself that his language can be a bit flowery I was able to throw myself head first into this new adventure and fell in love with the different characters. I enjoyed the mystery plot but it was the people that really made this book for me. Aza and her anxiety feel real and although I don’t have it anywhere near as bad there are some things that I can definitely relate to. Also I enjoyed that Aza is super panicked about C-Diff as that IS something I need to be careful about due to my chronic health condition. John Green’s brother – Hank – also has said condition so I couldn’t help but feel like that was an Easter Egg for his brother and people like us who all have to ‘live at the whims of our body more than normal people’ (quote from Hank about living with a chronic condition).
Would I recommend: If you’re a fan of John Green’s anyway this is probably already on your TBR but if not – or if it isn’t – this is one I would definitely suggest. Just be prepared to look up a few words.
PopSugar: About mental health, animal in the title, celebrity book club, meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get round to.
I’ve been away for so long due to being at YALC/LFCC last weekend and have only just recovered from the brilliance and the hectic-ness. I have returned with a bunch of signed books and 43 new ones (not even a little bit ashamed).
It was a brilliant weekend and I loved meeting everyone, although I’m planning to book the Monday off next year because I was as close to a zombie as possible while still being alive at work.
I’m aiming to get more reviews up over the next week or so, that way I can get back onto my schedule.
As always PLEASE leave a comment. It really means the world. Let me know what you think of my review and/or the book
P.S. The next book is ‘928 miles from home’ by Kim Slater