John Green: The Fault in our Stars

Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters meet at a weekly support group meeting for cancer patients, which both are sort of forced to attend. That very same day, their relationship begins with a movie, V for Vandetta, and an exchange of book recommendations. Hazel recommends An Imperial Affliction.

An Imperial Affliction becomes an essential part of their developing relationship. Upon completion, Gus becomes almost as curious as Hazel about how what happens to the characters in the book as the book literally has no ending. So Gus, who is obsessed with living a purposeful life, decides to use his last Wish (via Make a Wish Foundation) to help bring closure for Hazel. Despite several obstacles, both travel to Amsterdam to meet the author of the book himself, Peter Van Houten. Surely, he will know the fate of his characters.

The book ends a bit differently from what I initially expected. It’s not necessarily a happy ending, but it’s also not necessarily a sad one. But it is nonetheless heart-warming. Frankly, I miss the book already!
Overall, I highly recommend this book. It’s more than just a love story of two teenagers struggling with cancer. It’s also a story about finding infinity within a limited time frame.

Khaled Hosseini: And the Mountains Echoed

2013-08-07-hosseiniAnd the Mountains Echoed begins as Saboor tells his two children the story of a poor man, Baby Ayub, who chooses to let his youngest and most favored child go so that the boy can have a better future. Not only is this the last story Saboor entertains his children with, but also foreshadows the fate of Saboor’s daughter Pari. Pari and her older brother, Abdullah, are both devastated when Pari is given away to a wealthy couple in Kabul, the Wahdati’s, for they were unusually close. Following the story of Abdullah and Pari’s separation are a series of intertwined stories documenting the lives of a number of people who are all connected in some way.

One of the most memorable quotes for me was what Pari says to her niece – also named Pari – regarding her adoptive mother, Nila Wahdati,

“I wish I had been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that”

Four hundred and sixteen pages long, this is truly a must read!

Patricia McCormick: Sold

Within the first few pages, I was hooked. Completely attached to Lakshmi, a thirteen year old country girl from Nepal. I feared for her when she was on her way to Calcutta, though she herself was oblivious of her situation. The whole time she fantasizes about the city with gold roofs; fantasizes about the luxuries her family can now enjoy with the money she earns as a maid. When Lakshmi arrives at the “Happiness House” and sees  girls “wearing dresses of ever color,” adorned with flashy jewelry, eyes painted “with black crayon,” and lips “like red chilis,” I wanted to tell her that this is not where movie stars live.

A short fictive novel based on extensive research and true experiences, Sold is a glimpse into the Indian sex trade.  You may find yourself cringing with Lakshmi, crumbling the book with hatred, when the fish-lips man becomes her first customer. You may find yourself shouting at the book, trying to get Lakshmi to understand that the American man is not trying to “trick you and shame you and make you walk naked in public.” No, he is your route to freedom. You will want to nudge her, encourage her to follow him.

Overall, this is truly a book worth reading. Although it did leave me with the devastating thought of, “if this is a toned down version of reality, than how much more cruel is reality for these girls?”

Joyce Carol Oates: Black Dahlia & White Rose

Joyce Carol Oate’s Black Dahlia & White Rose is a collection of 11 short stories, which starts off with Black Dahlia & White Rose. Based on a true unsolved murder mystery, Black Dahlia relays a first-person account of two young girls, Elizabeth Short and Marilyn Monroe (yes, Marilyn Monroe), aspiring to stardom. It answers questions such as how one became the unfortunate victim of brutal murder, while the other rose to fame.

Despite raving reviews, I didn’t find all of the stories in the collection interesting to read. But, in addition the cover story, I did enjoy reading I.D. and Deceit. I.D. revolves around the experience of a middle school student in New Jersey who is asked to identify the body of a woman who may possibly be her blackjack dealing mother. Similarly Deceit also centers around a parent-child relationship. It presents the case of how a mother finds out that her daughter has been physically abused.