I have noticed a trend in my recent reviews. If a book has serious themes in it, I often preface my review by saying “I thought I wouldn’t like this but…” or “I was scared to read it but..” But I’m beginning to realize that I don’t hate serious issues books, I’ve just wasted a lot of time reading the wrong ones.
I knew The Fault in Our Stars would be a great book just because it was by John Green, co-author of the amazingly fabulous Will Grayson^2 and I was NOT disappointed. I glanced at the first page as soon as I got it from the library, and I knew I’d have to wait until I had a large chunk of time to read it because the main character Hazel’s voice is so compelling. Admittedly, Hazel and her friends are all very well-read and their conversations often seem a little too quippy and cool for normal people (teenaged or otherwise). But rather than this dialogue making the book feel contrived, I found it to be one of the things that made it all the more fresh and original. Yes, this book is a Cancer-with-a-capital-C book (it claims that it isn’t, but it really is), and you will be in tears at one point in the book or another, but this is a truly original Cancer book with quirky, non-cheesy characters and gut-churningly honest medical situations.
What writers can take away from this book:
(I’m going to start trying to do this for my MG/YA book reviews because I’ve found that reading a lot of books–good and bad–can be a more valuable experience than reading books on craft. Lots of craft books will agree with this statement ;) )
-how to create original and engaging characters
-how to craft a “strong voice” (such a tricky thing for many of us!)
-how write about serious issues without turning off your audience and giving a book an obvious “moral” or “lesson” to be learned
-how to make a YA character’s parents’ involvement realistic and important, but not *too* important (can be so tricky, especially in middle grade)
-how to find the right details to make medical scenes in a story feel accurate