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Ordinary

I went the the Messiah last night. It was brilliant (especially the viola chorus parts) and during some of the more repetive bits, I decided what people should be called, based on their faces (Gilbert! Janice! Kevin! Jonathan!) Do you ever play that game?

So I have noticed that in books, people tend to think that they are ordinary.That they don’t have any special talents or skills. That they don’t stand out. That they couldn’t change anything.

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For example, in Divergent, Tris thinks that she is ordinary. But the books spends large portions of time showing that she is special. And the blurb is all “1 girls choice will change everything *drumroll*”. Which is all related to the modern, Western way of thinking- a belief in the power of the individual. And some individuals have enormous power- but there aren’t that many of them.

But I have never read a book and believed it when a character says that they are ordinary. By the very act of being singled out for their story to be told, they are no longer ordinary. Some characters, such as Celaena Sardothien, know that they are not ordinary. But others, like Elise (from This Song Will Save Your Life) feel very ordinary. The definition of ordinary (from google)is : with no special or distinctive features; normal (adjective) or what is commonplace or standard (noun).

However, I don’t agree that normal and ordinary are comparable words. Everyone is ordinary: no one is normal. Normal is how you think everyday life should work as a cultural average (I sort of made that definition up), whereas ordinary is how your everyday life works. For instance, many people would think that my life of belonging to two cultures, living most of the time in India, reading copiously, tramping in the Himalayas during holidays, and occasionally crashing into inanimate objects as abnormal (because, lets face it, I am not a cultural average) , but for me it is utterly ordinary.

Now, most peoples lives don’t have plot. But by the very act of hearing someones stories (in a book or IRL) do you stop them from being ordinary? Does empathy with another person, understanding them, stop them from being ordinary and make them special? Would Christina’s story, or Hazel(from the Hunger Games), or Sophie (from the Infernal Devices) be equally special if we read about them? Now, some books, such as the Truth About Alice, or A Little Something Different, have multiple perspectives that tell a story, but its not about the characters with the perspectives, its about the person/people at the heart of the action. Which I like, but I actually wank to find out more about the people telling the society, even if they are “ordinary”.

So, in conclusion : if your story is being told, you are special. If your story could be told, you are special. If you have a story, you are special. And if you listen to someone else’ ordinary, you are both special. Everyones’ ordinary, which is not normal is special. Consider this as you read.

And a quote from Ruin and Rising :“They had an ordinary life, full of ordinary things-if love can ever be called that.”

Also : follow/friend my goodreads :).

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John Green

By Shar

Recently (as in, between Thursday and Saturday) I’ve read two books by John Green. In the last week I’ve also read his novella in the Let It Snow collection. And I’ve already read The Fault in Our Stars and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I haven’t read Paper Towns, though, I must admit.

Anyway, what is it that makes Greens writing so special? The Fault in Our Stars was a phenomenal success, despite it’s topic being rather… morose. I personally think that while tFiOS is a wonderful book, it is overrated as being ‘the best most only good book that my heart could desire’ . Even if it’s not quite good enough to be reared one of the most epic love stories of all time, there has to be something about it that is special, that makes teens who don’t read enjoy the writing of John Green’s books.

This is evidence of a sucky laptop camera but it was all I had. These are the only JG books I currently have with me, because I got them from the library.
This is evidence of a sucky laptop camera but it was all I had. These are the only JG books I currently have with me, because I got them from the library.

First of all: quick summaries

The Fault in our Stars: Two teenagers with different types of cancer meet and show the world that you don’t have to be healthy to live life well. Themes: Death, love, philosophy

An abundance of Katherines: A teenage prodigy and his best friend embark on a road trip as the prodigy tries to work out a way to predict his so far 19 relationships with girls called Katherine. The friends they make along the way change their lives. Themes: love, friendship, what makes a good person, the unpredictability of the future

Looking for Alaska: A boy called Mils goes to boarding school and begins to make real friends, unlike the vague acquaintances he left behind. His relationship with a beautiful but damaged girl called Alaska and her fate changes him and his perspectives. Themes: death, friendship, love, mystery. Note: this was John Green’s debut

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: Two people called Will Grayson randomly meet and make friends. This culminates in a romance and epic production of a play. Themes: Love, homosexuality and teens, the importance of coincidence. Note: written with David Levithan.

Let It Snow: a series of 3 novellas all set in the same town on the same night, with overlapping characters. John’s is called ‘A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle’ about two boys desperately driving in a storm to meet 14 cheerleaders, dragging their friend The Duke (a girl) unenthusiastically with them. Themes: love, stereotypes, comedy.

Papertowns: no idea, I haven’t read it. But there is a character called Margo Roth speilberg I think and a ‘paper town’ that only exists on the map as a trademark that became a real town because people looked for it. But don’t ask me!

Zombicorns: A completely ridiculous novella written as a fundraiser about zombies who, when infected, dedicate their lives to ensuring the survival of a type of genetically modified corn. It is quite stupid and funny.

Pros of John Green

  • He understands teenagers well, and crafts excellent characters
  • His writing style is easy to read (aka addicting I read 2 books in 3 days)
  • The novels are contemporary, so they come with any associated benefits
  • They are all stand-alones so you can just pick a book up
  • There are a lot of funny moments
  • NO love triangles! Ever (that i know of) yay! so relieved!
  • Very rich and well crafted secondary characters, that are often fun or funny ( think Hassan, Hollis, Isaac, Hazel’s parents, Takumi, the Colonel, Keun)
  • Interesting settings (like boarding school, a small southern town, and Amsterdam)
  • Extra bonus tangents where the reader can learn stuff (like the maths in Katherines, philosophical ideas in Tfios, and the whole concept of Paper Towns)
  • Inside jokes or recurring themes in his book for example, venn diagrams.

Cons of John Green

  • His books can be overrated
  • Sometimes it’s just too contemporary, and you want some crazy fantastical setting where puppy-sized elephants roam
  • some profanity and less ‘appropriate’ scenes that tweens who hear about the books would do well not to read. Then again, that perfectly describes teenagers too.
  • Inconsistent humour

I couldn’t think of too many cons, but oh well. In conclusion, his books are ver good and interesting, and mark an era of contemporary becoming popular in the YA genre. However, the Fault in Our Stars has become so popular that is is overrated.