This is a much-talked-about and much-reviewed book, but I still am going to go about my review the way I ordinarily do. This is the story of sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes, a high school student who struggles with multiple anxiety disorders as she attempts to lead, as far as she can, a “normal” life. Her best friend is Dairy Ramirez, who writes Star Wars fan fiction, and whose family isn’t financially all that well off, which means she works long shifts at Chuck E Cheese to save up for college. When millionaire Russell Pickett goes missing, and a hundred-thousand-dollar award is offered for finding him, the two girls decide to get on the case as Aza who has lost her father doesn’t have very much of a college fund either. This brings them into contact with Pickett’s son Davis who Aza used to once go to camp with, and his younger son Noah, struggling to cope with what has happened.
This was my first John Green, and I liked it very much indeed. The book as a GR friend also mentions in her review covers a range of subjects (astronomy, history, poetry, science, and so much more) which I enjoyed, and a range of personal issues as well, Aza’s anxieties, and the teens (Aza and Davis, particularly) dealing with loss, relationships with each other, and with their families, nothing easy, everything raising more questions than giving any answers. I did connect to an extent with some of what Aza was going through, getting stuck in a chain of thoughts, or thought spiral which doesn’t let you take that step forward, that makes you doubt doubt doubt and question question question, but never leave the issue aside even though you know you there’s really nothing in it or you can do nothing about it. Green (I read that this is based on his own experiences) I felt really succeeded in making the reader feel what it is like to be trapped in a mind like Aza’s, to be battling demons from which there will really be no escape, or at least from which you can’t know whether there will ever be any escape. The other issue that stood out to me through the book was the question of what makes us us—is it just our physical selves or are we something apart from that, what about those microbes that are in us and part of us, what about those thoughts that don’t seem to come from us and are yet from us? Are we just one entity or a multiplicity of us-es? Again a question that doesn’t have a definite answer but one that makes you think, a lot. I liked the characters, Aza, Daisy (I could get her viewpoint though one thing she did I didn’t like her for), and Davis. Mychal I felt I didn’t really get to know very deeply, and with Daisy, like Rincey (@rinceya) said in her view, I agreed there was a lot of scope to explore her character more. Also loved the explanation of the title and illustrations which emerged after reading. Overall, I really liked the book and look forward to picking up more by Green.