I knew this was going to be an amazing book pretty much right off the bat. Not only because John Green is an amazing author. Not even because I had only heard great stuff about the book. Nope. While both those things are absolutely true, I knew this was going to be an amazing book when I stopped reading to take pictures of lines that I thought were important. I'll annotate the hell out of a text book, but not my novels. I don't want my thoughts to cloud the next persons experience, so instead I snap pictures that I can refer back to. I'd barely read anything at all before I had to stop and document what I was reading. I think I even went so far as to tweet out that first picture, it struck me that hard.
So what was is about this book that clamped down so hard on me? For those of you have been here before it's no secret that I have long lived with both anxiety and depression. For the most part I'm good and life goes on, but there are other days where just getting through the day is a struggle. In other words Aza is me and I am Aza. While it manifests for Aza throughout the story in ways that are sometimes foreign to me, the experience is none the less the same. I could try to explain what living with anxiety feels like, but Green so perfectly encapsulates it in the book, so instead I'll just share the 4 most pertinent pictures I took of the book and meet you on the other side.
So what is it about these four quotes in particular that caught my eye? Well, I think they speak to something universal about living with a mental illness. I can't speak for everyone, but I do know that these things are real. Sometimes you just can't get out of your own head and the thoughts you have just spiral, slowly tightening until you can't handle it anymore. And you know that it isn't normal (although what is normal anyways?), and the rational half of your brain knows that you shouldn't let yourself get sucked in, but you literally can not stop yourself. You know it, you just can't do anything about it. Sometimes it feels like you are living with a monster (or demon) and other times it seems like you are the monster, that your issues are pushing others away, ruining not only your life, but also the people you love. I also know that when you find people that just get it. That see the world the way you do, it can slow down that spiral for a moment and make you feel a little less alone. Mental illness is a beast to deal with and it's not often that it's portrayed so accurately in fiction. I think what John Green does with Aza is phenomenal- he manages to keep the descriptions universal enough for people to connect with, while still creating a very specific character that struggles with her demons in a way that is intensely personal.
Beyond Aza and her living with a mental illness, the rest of the story is also really well done. I don't want to give anything away, but there's a mystery involving the missing father of a childhood friend, there's romance and friendship and Star Wars Fan Fic. In other words there's a little something for everyone! Aza navigates her life the best she can and her friends and family are with her the whole way, even when they struggle to live beside her illness. Green doesn't shy away from the hardships that come with this kind of illness, but he also remembers that when you have anxiety (or another illness), it's not all you are. It's a part of your life and it impacts how you live, but it's not all there is, and Aza gets to have a wealth of experiences throughout the book that we get to follow her on.
I enjoyed this book from start to finish and I can't wait to get a copy in the library because I think it's one that all my students should read!
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