Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just take my word for it

Years ago when I was a performing pianist, I took part in a concert that featured concerti. There were five soloists, including me. The reviewer wrote quirky comments that made me go "huh" a lot, including this one about another pianist: "It's as if he fell off a truck and discovered a Liszt concerto in his fingers and decided to perform it."

Now I think I understand what he was trying to say. That's the way I feel about John Green's writing. It is so smooth, so easy, so effortless that reading his work is a pleasure.

Paper Town is about the main character, Quentin, chasing after a girl he's loved all his life, from clues she's left. The first part is devoted to a night in which she convinces him to join him in a revenge-driven pranks, the second has Q trying to figure out where she is, and the third is a classic road-trip story of Q and his buddies to find her.

It was fun and exciting to go along for the ride in parts 1 and 3. Having always been the good girl, I could live a wacky life vicariously through these fearless teens. Part 2, however, didn't work so well for me. Q came to quite a few conclusions based on his gut feeling. Now I know that gut feelings often give good advice, for whatever reason--it's been collecting information subliminally, it combines the intuitive and the analytical parts of us--but in a book, I want to partake more in the mystery-solving. Not having much access to Q's gut. it takes a mighty leap of faith for me to go along with his discoveries and conclusions, especially when there are more than one or two of such instances.

What do I mean by gut-feeling reactions? For example, when someone kisses a girl and knows from the kiss that they would never meet again. I can understand that these things do happen, and I know that it's hard to explain what about the kiss allows the person to come to the conclusion. But not being the one involved in the kiss, I am basically being told that it happened and I have to just take his word for it. Again, no problems if there were just one or two instances of this sort, but more than that, I start to lost interest in trying to participate in the story because I'm just going to be told what to conclude.

I mentioned in an earlier post I wanted to have a good talking-to with Q, to yell at him not to be so foolish. I hoped he'd do some growing over the course of the book, and he did, and I am proud of him. If he were my son or brother or good friend, I'd want more, but as a reader, I'm satisfied enough.

I'll have to say that John Green writes friendships really well. For me, the most touching parts come from Q's friends unwavering support for him. I am glad Q is not oblivious to that.

I am interested in finding out what other stories he finds in his fingertips when he wakes up next. (Yes, yes, yes, I know it takes tons of work to sound effortless.)


MG Higgins said...

I enjoyed your review. I'm with you on only being able to go so far with an author telling me to believe something rather than convincing me through the character's actions, etc. Good reminder for my own writing.

Yat-Yee said...

When I see things in other people's writing, the first thought is always, uh-oh, am I doing that without knowing?

Nandini said...

Interesting ... I haven't read it yet. Sounds like an awesome book from your review despite the flaws you observe in the middle. Personally I'm usually willing to make that leap of faith for a character that is vivid and real to me. Not so much for a character that isn't. Adding it to my reading list ...

Yat-Yee said...

I know what you mean by needing to believe in or like the character before being willing to take those leaps of faith. I hope you'll like it.