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Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Welcome to the Young Adult Book Club. This week we’re chatting about The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. If you haven’t read it, it goes something like this:

And this:

Which is to say, it’s amazing. And crazy sad.

I was debating how to write this review. There are so many wonderful things I could say about this book, but I’m betting most of the other book club members will explain why you NEED TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW.*

So let me talk about something else. If you don’t already know, The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of Hazel, a girl with terminal cancer. And this kind of affected me in a way I didn’t anticipate.

As someone who deals with chronic pain on a daily basis, I totally related to Hazel’s honest take on living with cancer.** There’s a point in the novel when she’s talking about her favorite book and says:
“But it’s not a cancer book, because cancer books suck. Like, in cancer books, the cancer person starts a charity that raises money to fight cancer, right? And this commitment to charity reminds the cancer person of the essential goodness of humanity and makes him/her feel loved and encouraged because s/he will leave a cancer-curing legacy. But in [An Imperial Affliction], Anna decides that being a person with cancer who starts a charity called The Anna Foundation for People with Cancer Who Want to Cure Cholera.”
And her point is that people are more than their disease. Whether it’s cancer or something else, it’s easy to become your disease. I’m reminded of mine every day, and part of why I read and write is to separate my life from the chronic illness. She goes on to say:
“Also, Anna is honest about all of it in a way no one else really is. Throughout the book, she refers to herself as the side effect, which is just totally correct.”
Not that I agree with all of this (namely, that cancer kids are just side effects of life), but the thoughts Hazel is expressing in her review of An Imperial Affliction are the same thoughts most people with a serious disease have. Because it’s hard. Living in pain each day sucks.

When you’re sick, people like to mention friends of friends of friends who were once sick but rose above it all. And, you know, you could be just like that. But I think what Hazel’s trying to say here is that when you’re sick, you don’t want to stand up and be a shining example of courage under terrible circumstances. You don’t want to become a cause.

You want to get better.

The reason Hazel and Augustus so loved An Imperial Affliction is the same reason I loved The Fault in Our Stars. It’s a cancer book, but it’s not a cancer book. There’s humor and sarcasm and some really brilliant and witty lines from two brilliant and all-around awesome teens.

And, well, I don’t want to give anything away, but I think John Green makes a strong case for the impact one person can have on so many lives—even if the person doesn’t do any Big Important Things in the name of a Terrible Disease to leave a mark on the world.

What did you think of the book? Write your thoughts in the comments below, and link to your blog review below.

*Well, go buy a box of tissues first. Then read this.
**Of course, I don’t have cancer. I’ve never had cancer. And I don’t pretend to know what it’s like being a teen with cancer. I’m not trying to minimize the struggles of teens with cancer but instead explaining how the book relates to my life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

All the Stuff

So I’m just stopping in today because there’s something I want to tell you—and another something I want to remind you of—even though I’m currently six days away from transporting my life from Virginia to Massachusetts.

At this point I’m only moving to further my plans of making it into the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Moves in a Predetermined Time Span. So far I’ve moved every single year since 2004. The Man and I have lived in 10 different places over that six-year timespan. You should know two things: Moving is not fun.* Also, I’m not on the run from the law.

So the move. It’s happening next week. As you can imagine, things are a tad crazy in the Neithercott household. Which is why my posting might be a bit irregular** until I’m unpacked and Internet is set up in the new place. (YES, I will be forced to be Internet free for a period of several hours. SEVERAL HOURS. If the earth stops spinning, you will know why.)

Before I go colonial on you, we’ll be chatting about The Fault in Our Stars for the YA Book Club. If you’ve read it, join in on Friday for a discussion—either on your blog or here in the comments. If you haven’t read it … what are you waiting for? Grab a box of Kleenex, pop open the book, and then chat with us about all the ways it made you laugh and cry.

Finally, I don’t usually share my nonfiction articles here, but I thought this one was appropriate for the topic. I wrote about baby boomers reading YA for the February/March issue of AARP the magazine. I’d love it if you checked it out.

And that’s about it in the news department. The next time I see you, I’ll have residual tears from TFIOS as we talk about the fact that John Green is genius.

*Case in point: I already have a Moving Sucks label on this blog. 
**But it doesn’t mean I love you any less.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

YA Love Stories

I’m as much a fan of action-packed violent books as the next guy girl, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also a sucker for a good romance. And seeing as today is Valentine’s Day I thought I’d share some of my favorite YA romances. Some of the books focus on love (like, say, Anna and the French Kiss, which kind of says it all in the title) while others just have great romances in addition to the rest of the story.

So here we go…

THE romance: 

The sweet, this-is-too-adorable-to-breathe romance:

The kind of love story that breaks your heart then glues it back together:

The anti-romance:

The love that shouldn’t make you smile (even though it does):

The romance that picks you up after you’ve bawled your eyes out:

The kind of romance all girls dream of:

The epic love story:

The coming-of-age romance:

The perfect love triangle:

The adorable, wish-this-would-happen-to-me romance:

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

What’s your favorite YA romance?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Do Not Disturb

Really, if you want the whole story, you’d have to go all the way back. It started with Sarah Enni. Her and a single tweet. So, here’s how it all went down.

Fast forward a week and you have the Go Away Dust Jacket series. What you might not know about author Erin Bowman is that she likes to collect creative talents and not only can she write, but she’s also a graphic designer. She’s also the reason we’re revealing these book covers for you on our blogs today—because, in all honestly, you’d probably laugh at what Sarah and I could have come up with on our own.

I’ll put on my Captain Obvious cap and tell you that these come in pretty handy when you’re reading a good book and don’t want to be interrupted. It’s the bookish equivalent of the ol’ tie-around-the-doorknob trick.

We’ve split the covers among the three of us, so hop between our blogs to collect templates for each. Here on my site you can download PDFs for covers that read:

Shhh. I’m in book mode.


Fiction > Reality

Head to Erin’s site to get this set:

And visit Sarah’s site to get this book-specific set:

Creating the covers from the pdfs is insanely easy. Below you’ll find printing instructions and a video* Erin created as a helpful how-to. 

Download PDFs for set No. 2 from the Go Away Dust Jacket series:
These covers will fit the traditionally-sized YA book. Take the PDFs to your local FedEx or Staples and get them printed on tabloid paper (11x17in). We suggest a matte cardstock  (you could print on something glossy, but sometimes that causes light glares at certain angles and you want people to be able to read that Go Away message without incident). Choose a weight between 60-80lb for the paper. Anything lighter and the page will be too thin, anything heavier and folding it around your book will be difficult. You can have the store cut the printer-outs for you (it will cost a little more), or you can handle it on your own when you get home (there are crop marks in the files).


Go forth and read.

Creative Commons License
"Go Away" Dust Jacket Series by Erin Bowman, Sarah Enni, and Tracey Neithercott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

*Yeah, we know it’s backwards. You can either pretend none of us knew how to flip the video or you can imagine Erin filming this with mirrors. I like option number two.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

YA Book Club: February Reading

So I’m lying on the bed with my laptop propped up on blankets and my neck bent at an angle I’m pretty sure necks shouldn’t bend because no matter how hard I try to sit up to write I somehow end up in a serious slouch with a numb butt. Then it hits me: It’s February.

And I think I’ve slipped into another realm or the earth has sped up rotation. A moment ago it was New Year’s Day and I was staring down some white chocolate–covered peppermint pretzels that I couldn’t eat even though I knew polishing off the whole bag would be better than being stranded on a deserted island with all of the provisions I needed and this guy. (On second thought…)

Now it’s February and it’s about time for the ridiculous holiday that is Groundhog’s Day, and I sort of can’t believe time moved so fast. This is all relevant to you because February marks the return of the YA Book Club, and if I wait any longer to reveal the book you’ll all chop me up and serve me as sushi.

(Or something less disgusting. I don’t know. It’s hard to determine your creep factor from the other side of the computer.)

Anyhow, instead of doing a poll this time, I picked a book from your suggestions. I don’t intend on being the Supreme Ruler of the Book Club every month, but this decision seemed pretty easy considering most of you suggested it. So, here’s your assignment:

Yes, that book. I’m sorry that I’m too poor to overnight all book club members a box of Kleenex, but I think in this case your shirtsleeves will do. I’m super excited, not to bawl my eyes out like the emotional wimp that I am, but because this will be the book club’s first contemporary YA novel.

I feel like we should be celebrating that fact. I’d suggest Champagne but I don’t need to see the future to know that alcohol + super sad book = a tearfest of epic proportions. Let’s spare our spouses, children, roommates, and neighbors that disaster and drown our sorrows in sugary cereal eaten from the box. Or whatever.

And now I’m going to slowly back away as you all realize I’ve picked a book that, while it has the potential to completely rock your world, is more than likely to make you feel like a crap writer. That’s a natural reaction to John Green’s books, and I think we can take comfort in the fact that he was clearly abducted by aliens as a child, during which time his brain was tampered with. So you see, it’s not you. It’s the fact that John Green is a souped-up cyborg with mad brainpower.

We will blog about the book on February 24. Come ready to chat.

(Need a refresher on how this book club thing works? Click here.)

So, who’s in for this month?