Friday, July 19, 2013

Let It Snow -- I'm Swooning like I'm in an 80's movie

I needed this book. I needed it in a 'light some candles and relax in a hot bath' kind of way. As I write this review, I will try my hardest not to shower you with my overwhelming love for John Green. I will try not to explain to you guys in several different ways how he is a fantastic young adult author and that I love him for not having rippling biceps anywhere in his books. I will try to contain myself over the fact that he writes teens, especially teen nerds, in such a way that makes you swoon. Let's face it though. I probably just lied to you.

Let It Snow is a series of three short stories, all taking place over Christmas. It originally appealed to me because John Green writes one of these said stories. Also, I have a soft spot for Christmas. There is something about the mass amounts of twinkle lights, the idea and in my case, hope for snow, and the smell of a ginormous tree that takes up your entire dining room in your tiny one bedroom apartment, that just makes the holiday magical. No? No one else has trees like that?

Let it be known that I have a certain prejudiced against young adult novels. I think a majority of them shouldn't have been published and when I walk into the young adult section at Barnes and Noble, the one I used to spend hours in as a child, I am overwhelmed with pictures of shirtless, hairless, man-boys and girls with doe eyes and glossy lips. Soft. Core. Porn. This is not to say that I think we should shy away from sexuality in teen novels nor do I think it is something we should be making taboo. But, when I see almost every book jacket gooped up with these images, all I can think is that Fabio and Edward Cullen have done the impossible and have somehow made a baby. This said vampire sexed up child is now gracing the covers of poorly written novels. Or at least what I assume to be poorly written novels. I might never know either because I don't tend to crack open those books which is probably a flaw on my part since they could be hiding a literary gem. I highly doubt it but I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt here.  

But seriously.  What is that?

My point is, I don't like young adult novels. The teens in them annoy the shit out of me and most of the main characters are whining females concerned only with vapid tendencies that are important to them and only them. I know. I know. There really are people like that in the world and we tend to notice it the most in teenage girls. This isn't exactly an inaccurate portrayal. But, are teen girls this way because we are shaping them to be these self centered, dramatic, 'I can't believe she is wearing the same dress as me' type of person? Or are they this way because its what they truly want to be? Better people and much smarter people can probably answer that question. I simply can't believe that a majority of teens are that shallow and one dimensional as a human being. More on that later.

Now I won't go over plot details with you so as not to spoil the stories but I have to say that two out of three of these stories made me feel like I was sixteen again and falling head over heals for the boy in first period. I was smitten while reading these and that has been one of the things that I think sets John Green (and I'm going to include Maureen Johnson in here too) aside from other authors. Both Green and Johnson created characters and a corresponding romance that was genuine, unique, funny, and filled with all the first time cringe worthy moments that make us feel alive.

Maureen Johnson is not an author I have read before but I will be seeking out her other work soon. She had the first story in the Christmas trilogy and had me hooked with her writing style from the first page. The fact that most of the story centers around a Christmas house collection called Flobie Village and the insanity of people who are collecting them, endeared me to her in ways that I don't think is healthy. I will admit I was looking for something wrong with her section of the story, my teen novel prejudice coming out to play. But, the moment that I thought I had found it in her portrayal of cheerleaders, another character came along and called the main character out on this generalization. Not that the generalization didn't have some truth, but the author did acknowledge that this is not the case all the time.

The love story of this tale was by far my favorite and by the end, I was cheering on the nerd boy, wanting him to win over the nerd girl. I want to see future stories of these two characters and see what their nerd babies turn out to be. I want a conclusion to the Flobie Village catastrophe!

Next was John Green. I love John Green. A lot.

Again, the romance and the characterization in this story were believable in the awkward 'hey we're real people' way. What I liked best about this switch of authors and characters was that while it still mentioned the characters introduced to us in the fist story, a whole new set was given to us, each with their own distinguished personality. Green captures different voices in a way that I am continuously envious of. Furthermore, the way he writes females makes me so happy. And that's kind of where my love for the first two stories comes down to. I feel like Johnson and Green give voice to a female character that I embodied growing up, and didn't feel was represented in media.

In an epic battle to get to a Waffle House, in the middle of a snowstorm, Green tells another love story and the quest for hash browns. It is perfect in every way and during those brief moments when the characters stop acting as old friends and have to navigate the new waters of a potential relationship, I was hiding under the covers, my heart beating fast, agonizing over whether they would be together or not in the end.

These first two stories made me nostalgic for high school again. They made me want to be that awkward teen that didn't know what the hell she was doing or where she was going or if she was smart/pretty/funny/etc. Both Green and Johnson portray the jumbled mess that is the teenage years in a stomach twisting, butterflies swarming and heart skipping kind of way. I love them and want to wax poetics about them forever.

Then we got to the third story. Now, off the bat, I was against Lauren Myracle's section of the story. Her main character was the embodiment of what I hated about young adult novels. The girl was shallow and spent the first five chapters dramatically relaying to her friends in that attention fishing way (Go look on Facebook. You'll find an example of this kind of person, I'm sure) about how her and her boyfriend were no more and it was all her fault and she was so sad and the world was ending and bla bla bla. I hate characters like that. We see them frequently and I often feel like adults view all teens as this mass of superficial, dramatic, things. They don't tend to realize the complexities of the person before them or how the cheerleader might go home at night and be the oldest of several siblings that she is trying to help take care of. They see the artificial part and that's about it. That's what this characterization felt like. Again, I know there are girls like that in the world. I know there are guys in the world that are exactly like the character of Charlie in this book and think they are Gods gift. I'm not saying that this is inaccurate. I just hate that voice to a dramatic extent because there is so much more of a story to tell. I want to know what's behind those personalities. I don’t care about the shade of nail polish they are wearing.

Now, I'm going to be a bit spoilery so if you don't want to have slight plot points given away, scroll down until I yell at you in unnecessary caps lock and bold type face.

I soothed my soul by saying that Myracle was simply giving voice to another aspect of teen life. No, it's not an aspect I like, but it is an aspect I have to accept. Then, a nice thing happened. The author acknowledged the self absorption of the character. Seeing that was like someone turning a sweet smile at me. I was very pleased.

While Lauren Myracle's was my least favorite of the three stories, I was happy to see the turn around that happened there. I still didn't like the character in her story much, but that is a matter of personal preference. The best part of the third and final story in this novel, however, is the fact that at the end, every character you've met along the way, merges together in the middle of a Starbucks coffee shop while oohing and awing over a baby pig. It brought the story full circle and allowed us to see interactions between characters that we wouldn't have otherwise gotten to see. It was the kind of music swelling ending that you want to see at the end of a feel good movie where you may have binged on ice cream.

The baby pigs made you read that paragraph. Admit it.

Let It Snow
is sigh worthy. Is it for everyone? No. Absolutely not. I know a lot of my feminist friends that would turn their nose up at this story with a kind of disdain because it is a teen love story and 'how could that possibly be interesting compared to stories written by Joyce or insert other classic author here'? I know others that are going to go 'that sounds too sickeningly sweet for my taste'. I know I thought that before
reading it. If it wasn't for John Green and the subject of Christmas, I never would have read it. But, it touched every little piece of my hopeless romantic heart that I often lock away in the closet because it leaves me swooning like a Disney Princess.

If you have no problems with swooning like a Disney Princess, though? Get this book. Do it. Also, go buy everything by John Green because he is the voice of nerd teens everywhere and is giving representation to a previously hidden away group of individuals who are exceedingly interesting.

And now I leave you with Sharpie Face.  Bestselling authors need to be more like him.

To see what else I'm reading this month click here:

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