I’m not sure if this has ever been made apparent on the blog, but I am not a fan of John Green’s writing. Although I appreciated some aspects of The Fault In Our Stars, the rest of the books I’ve read from him have always left me feeling either angry or, at the very least, annoyed.
However, when I heard he was writing an own voices book about a dealing with OCD, I was intrigued. I’ve loved so many books about mental illness, including Under Rose Tainted Skies and Every Last Word, so I was really hoping I could add this novel to my list of favourites. Spoiler alert, it won’t be anywhere near my favourites, and here’s why…
It’s been a while since I read a John Green novel and I think I forgot about his talent for writing really pretentious characters, but they were back in full force in this novel. I found the characters in this book really unlikable and thought it was difficult to sympathise with them despite their issues. In my mind, part of the reason you write a novel about mental illness is to normalise it and to make the reader (whether they suffer similar struggles or not) feel that they understand the protagonist and empathise with their situation. Even Aza’s name is pretentious, never mind the fact that Davis starts all his blog posts with an angsty quote!
Along a similar vein, I found it interesting that John Green decided to put so much emphasis on the cut on Aza’s finger, rather than on the actual thought patterns in a lot of instances. I felt like her OCD was simplified down into one symptom which lead to a repetitive narration making me feel uncomfortable and uneasy. I don’t feel like this emphasis actually gave me any more sympathy for the character or helped me understand her.
I’ve never really been a fan of John Green’s writing style, despite the fact I think he has the potential to be one of my favourites, he falls foul mainly because of one major flaw. Why, oh why, oh why does he feel the need to point it out when he uses a metaphor? If it’s a good metaphor, you shouldn’t need to point it out! Every so often throughout this book he’d have some overwrought image followed by a sentence like “oh dear, I’m speaking in metaphors again” or “but that’s pretty metaphorical”. I’m sure it’s not what he means, but it always feels to me like the book is patronising me “I know you wouldn’t have realised by yourself, so I’ll spell it out for you…”, it’s very upsetting.
As I mentioned already, I didn’t really like any of the characters, but let’s focus on Daisy for a moment… she’s an absolute bitch! I feel like, in some twisted way, we’re supposed to like her (or at least understand her) but she’s a self-absorbed cow! I get that Green was probably attempting to illustrate how difficult this illness was for Daisy, but it really just made her incredibly dislikeable for me.
Let’s finish up with a Miss Abigail classic… a discussion on family dynamic and relationships. I understand that a lot of what knitted Aza and Davis together was the death of their father and mother respectively, so that’s okay. However, the thing with the Tuatara was way over-the-top ridiculous, it cluttered the plot and took away from the important discussion of mental illness and dealing with grief.
Overall, I gave this novel 2/5 stars essentially meaning I finished it, but that’s about the only thing it has going for it. I appreciate what John Green was trying to do and I appreciate the own voices representation. However, likable characters and believable relationships would have taken it a long way, but alas, they weren’t likable or believable and so it’s rating remains.
If you’re a fan of John Green’s writing you’d probably get on well with this. If you are interested in books about mental illness then you might want to give this a shot, but there are better ones out there in my opinion.
Let me know what you thought about this book (or any of John Green’s novels) in the comments below, he’s an author I love to discuss!