As is traditional on the last Road Trip Wednesday of the month, the YA Highway ladies want to know What was the best book you read in March?
I seem to be making a habit of choosing one book as the book of the month, and then giving a shout-out to another book I read and enjoyed. Well, this month is no different. It may come as a bit of a surprise, but my shout-out book for this month is THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. I know for many, this would have been hands-down their book of the month, and it very nearly was for me. The writing is exquisite. John Green is a talented writer, and he definitely knows how to write contemporary YA in a way that is entertaining, relatable, and thoughtful. Every aspiring writer would do well to study John Green’s novels, and this one in particular. He nails the voice, and develops the characters well. He also tackles a very emotional and potentially awkward topic with style, honesty, and compassion. There is much to commend in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.
However, the book doesn’t get my book of the month because there were some philosophical issues that I couldn’t get past. If you don’t know already, the main characters in the book are teens with various forms of cancer, so issues of pain, life, and death are front and center throughout the novel. I’m not a secular humanist, and so I found my worldview clashing quite dramatically with the worldview of this book, which is very humanist. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, let me give an example. One of the characters expresses the idea that even if your life doesn’t impact the world, if it impacts one life, that’s enough. This is a fine sentiment, and I think there is truth to that–but that’s hardly a satisfactory ultimate reason for existence. It seems to me the view put forward by the book is that the here-and-now is all that matters, and that you feel as if you’ve made a difference somehow. But this assumes the “here-and-now” is all that there is to care about, and there are dangerous consequences to this philosophy (“eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!”). Granted, the characters in the novel don’t pursue those dangerous consequences, but there is no reason given as to why they shouldn’t.
Also, whether intentional or not, I felt the role of faith and the religious community undermined–and perhaps even belittled–throughout. Again, John Green may not have intended this. But I don’t recall any of the teenage characters having a faith-based response to their illness, or even a sympathetic view of faith in the midst of suffering. This, for me, is the most important aspect of this subject, and for it not to be taken seriously (as I felt it wasn’t) was hugely disappointing.
I’m not critiquing the book for not being Christian–there are plenty of books I enjoy (and have made “book of the month”) that are not from a Christian worldview. Rather, it’s the fact that the book attempted to tackle important issues, and yet overlooked, or at least failed to deal satisfactorily with, important alternative perspectives. I appreciate that others, particularly those who share the worldview of the novel, won’t agree with me, but I’m just trying to be honest with you about why I can’t give this book “book of the month.”
So, my book of the month for March is… BREATH, EYES, MEMORY by Edwidge Danticat. The novel is about a Haitian girl who moves to be with her estranged mother in New York when she is twelve. After college, she returns to Haiti, and while there she faces uncomfortable truths about her family. This is a beautifully written book. Danticat, who is originally from Haiti herself, manages to transport the reader to Haiti through a relatively simple prose style. I’ve never been to Haiti, but this book was able to give me the atmosphere, the smells, and the culture of the country. The story itself is an interesting exploration of broken families and how they try to heal and move on within that culture. I wrote a review of the book last Monday, so you can read that if you want to know more about it.
What was your favorite read this month? Join in the Road Trip Wednesday fun at YA Highway!