I’m going to begin by saying that I love John Green. His writing is amazing, his vlogs are fantastic, and his nerdiness is inspirational. So, when I read Paper Towns about a year and a half ago, I was not disappointed. Unfortunately, though I don’t remember exactly when I read it, it must’ve been a time when I had a lot of other things going on, because I didn’t remember the story that well. Then, because the movie came out this past weekend, I figured I should read the book again before seeing it.
    I did exactly that, and I am glad that I did. The story was much more fun than I remembered, which is impressive in itself. Most authors can’t create a road trip story as good as this one, let alone one that is driven by something so heavy hanging over all the characters. I also found the characters to be so relatable that I just wanted to hang out with all of them. I think that this story is relatable to people of all ages because it’s about that one person who is known by everyone, and yet by no one, and about appreciating your friends, and about just having a good time.
    It was especially relatable for me, though, because going into my senior year of high school, I’m preparing to have a lot of “last things.” It made me think about how even though I have so much to do to prepare for my future, I also don’t have much time to enjoy what I have now. After reading it, I wanted to call my friends and demand that we go on a spontaneous road trip.
    Throughout the first portion of the book, Quentin is told again and again that he needs to be more adventurous, that he needs to expand his comfort zone. As someone who never does things I don’t feel comfortable with, I can see where this is coming from, but I also realize that there are people like Margo Roth Spiegelman to do crazy things and run away from home, and there are people like Quentin Jacobsen to wonder where they went. I am part of the latter group, and that’s okay.
    Anyway, after devouring the book, I went to see the movie, and I was not quite prepared for what I saw, but I liked it. The movie was very, very different from the book. Usually, I hate movies that don’t match the books, a sentiment most people probably share. For some reason, this movie was different. Though the basic idea was the same, there were major plot points that differed. I know that this often happens in movies because there isn’t time to squish an entire book into a two-hour film, but it still bugs me most of the time. But somehow, it didn’t bother me in this movie.
    I enjoyed the movie a lot, even the parts that differed from the book. The only thing I didn’t like about the movie was Margo. I loved her in the book, but I didn’t find her to be very likable in the movie, perhaps because she wasn’t given as much character development. However, I loved all the other characters as much as I did in the book, if not more so, and the differences in plot didn’t bother me as much as I’d expected. It was funny and entertaining, and it had a deeper element without being too intense. (And let’s not forget Ansel Elgort’s cameo, because yes!)
    Overall, I loved the book and everything about it. The movie, while quite different, was also very good. There are a few things I might’ve liked to see done differently to stay true to the book, but I liked it nonetheless. I’d recommend reading the book if you’re interested in something quick, fun, and well-written; I’d recommend seeing the movie whether or not you’ve read the book, because I think it’d probably be good either way.

Did you see the movie? If so, what did you think?

    I loved Judy Blume when I was younger, something I assume most people can relate to. So when I received this book from my dad’s friend Rory (who can be found at fourthstreetreview.com), I was pretty excited to read it. I expected a cute story about two girls who spend their summers on Martha’s Vineyard and change each other as they grow up together.
    Instead, this book was a bit dark and fairly complicated. It did tell the story of the two girls’ friendship, but it also explored how their decisions shaped the rest of their lives. While I cannot relate to their adventures, I do understand their complicated friendship. It sometimes seemed that they had absolutely nothing in common, but it just demonstrated that the most unlikely friendships occur all the time. I think their friendship is so believable only because every girl has found herself in this situation: worshiping another girl because of what she has or how effortlessly cool she seems, only to realize that it’s not real.
    While the first part of the book told their time on the Vineyard growing up together, it transitioned into the telling of the next twenty or so years of their lives, a decision that seemed to move things along a little too quickly. Because there was so much time to account for, many of the characters and relationships explored here were discussed very quickly, and seemed to have been included only to fit expectations. I didn’t feel like many of the things that happened were important to the overall theme of the story; it felt like they were included simply to explain how the main characters went from sharing their summers to being on opposite ends of the world and conversing less and less often.
    However, even though some of the characters in that part of the book were predictable and a little forced, I understand that it was only because Blume needed to move things along. Unlike the Judy Blume books I read when I was younger, this one is brutally honest. Though Caitlin’s later adventures may be a little far-fetched, it was truthful in that friends do grow apart.
    Even though this book was not at all what I expected it to be, it was great in a different way. It was a little difficult to read sometimes, but I flew through it nevertheless. The honesty is what I really loved about this book. Blume didn’t sugarcoat their experiences; she described exactly what happens to so many childhood friendships, while at the same time exploring the development of both characters. I expected going in that I would connect with the characters in some way, as it is Blume’s specialty, and I was not disappointed. Vix was the most obvious connection for me because she is quiet and introverted, but I found that I related to most of the characters, as they all seemed to be trying to figure things out and getting stuck. It seemed to me that many of the characters were their own worst enemies, something I can definitely relate to. In all, was a good summer read that was cute, fun, a bit sad, and ultimately believable.

    To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations going into this book. In fact, I didn’t even really know what it was about, but I'd recently gotten it from my dad's friend, Rory (who can be found at fourthstreetreview.com), and it was on top of my pile, so I picked it up and dug in. All I knew with certainty before I began was that it was about a high school music festival that takes place in a creepy old hotel that was once the scene of a murder-suicide. It seemed interesting enough, but I wasn’t going to get too excited.
    It seems that I should’ve been more excited because this book was much more than I expected. The prelude discusses the incident that happened at the hotel years before the conference, and Racculia’s incredibly descriptive writing drew me in right away.
    By the end of the first chapter, I was sold on the main characters. I don’t really remember the 1990s, as I was a baby, but the idea of being a teen unsure where you fit in is a universal one, and it is conveyed well in this book.
    As the book is about a high school festival, I assumed it would be incredibly dramatic and would play largely on high school problems. However, the problems that the teens face are real, and the manner in which they handle them seems natural for their characters and their humanity.
    Don’t get me wrong, the adults have problems as well, ones that are explored in depth throughout the novel. While not declared to be the main focus of the book, they are personal and important to the storyline.
    This book is well-paced and interesting. It does seem like a mystery novel, but it doesn’t force the mystery aspect on you. Instead, the story moves along, being told from several different points of view, all of which reveal details important to the story. Somehow, Racculia manages to give all the details necessary to understand what’s going on without rushing through them or giving away the overall plot.
    Unlike some mystery-type books, this one was a bit difficult to figure out, possibly because the story is good enough that solving the mystery is not your main focus. If not for the twist at the end, I never would’ve been able to connect all of the dots; those few extra pieces of information bring to light everything that was already there.
    All in all, this book exceeded my expectations. It was full of twists and turns that just made sense, moved along quickly without rushing any of the intersecting storylines, and left me with a sense of closure. It was funny, relatable, mysterious, quick, clever, and an all around enjoyable book.

Are there any books that you've unexpectedly enjoyed recently?

    Since it’s summertime, I’ve been trying to read some light, fun books while I enjoy the sunshine, and my dad's friend Rory (who can be found on her blog at fourthstreetreview.com) gave me some books. I read a couple others that I had been looking forward to first, and then chose this one next because I really wanted to read something happy. The cover of this book just screams happy, so I figured I’d give it a shot, and after reading the description, it sounded like just the thing I needed.    
    I was really excited going into this book, as I expected it to be a light, quick read about a daughter searching for her mother and ultimately finding herself, set against a background of cute suburban anecdotes.
    What I found was far from my expectation. The first two hundred pages or so is told through a series of emails, bills, etc. from various people. While this did serve to move the story along quickly and give details on the characters, it didn’t seem to give them much depth. It felt a bit like a book in which you’re trying to solve the mystery with the clues you’re given. The only problem was that you didn’t really know what mystery you were trying to solve, as Bernadette doesn’t disappear until over two hundred pages in. At one point, I considered finishing this book another time, but I did enjoy the writing and after waiting so long to find out what was going on, I wasn’t going to give up that easily. Because I expected the rest of the book to be just as fun (and have some closure), I was disappointed by what I found. 
    The first part of the book is fun and enjoyable, but the second half is quite different. It is not as light, and the correspondence between characters comes less often. When it does come, it serves only to reveal a new plot point, many of which were irrelevant to the rest of the story and seemed to have been created only to add drama to the plot.
    The mystery is resolved very quickly at the end of the book, with little explanation as to why the characters suddenly know everything they need to in order to find Bernadette. There are many plot points left open, making the smaller storylines throughout the book seem useless. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the book was the last few pages, in which there are several twists that come out of the blue and provide absolutely no resolution.
    Overall, this book fell short of my expectations, though it may be because I expected something different altogether. It wasn’t bad; Semple is clever and wrote well about Seattle and the struggles of suburbia and dealing with other parents. The scenarios are created well in the first part of the book, but unfortunately, the second part just couldn’t match the first.