It’s All About Context

Shakespeare wrote that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And maybe that’s true. But will the song “Pay Phone” still hold resonance in a few years, when many teenagers already aren’t really sure what a pay phone even is? And will a book narrated by a teenage girl with a terminal illness still be as touching in a decade, when many readers of young adult fiction are no longer aware of the close relationship between the author and the young fan & friend who inspired the relationship?

This is a pay phone.

This is a pay phone.

Like many avid readers, I am a fan of John Green. When I read Looking for Alaska, I remember being relieved that YA still contained good writing, and not just good ideas, poorly executed (I was in a bit of a reading slump, reading the wrong things for me). So when I first heard about The Fault in Our Stars, which deals with death and living, and knew that the author had been inspired to write it by his close friendship with the recently deceased Esther Earl, I allowed myself to become very, very excited.


Unfortunately, this resulted in my being very, very disappointed.


The Fault in Our Stars is not a bad book. It’s decently written, it exhibits intelligence, and humor. But some of it felt as though it was done by rote – standard Green wit and intelligence, twist at the end that I saw coming in the first third of the book, showy role-model-esque shit that made me roll my eyes a little bit.

Seriously? Smoke it or STFU.

Seriously? Smoke it or STFU.

I’m not sorry that I read The Fault in Our Stars, and as far as blockbuster bestselling books go, I’ve certainly read much worse. At the same time, I’ve also read much better. By the same author. And I didn’t cry; I don’t think I even felt tempted.


So I kept hearing about readers who cried through the entire book, teenagers and adults, alike, and at first, felt a bit like sour grapes. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I feel sad at this book? I couldn’t have been the only one who could see that Hazel was not the only main character terminally ill. The Anne Frank museum felt a bit overdone. Why was everyone else who read this book crying so much? Was I the only one who was like: “Meh. It’s okay, but Looking for Alaska was better?”

sour grapes

Of course, I’m not, but a lot of people were a lot more touched by this novel than I. And I think a large part of the reason is the story that inspired the novel.

I don’t really know a lot about Esther Earl, but I do know that she touched a lot of lives. And while she and her acquaintance knew that she was slated to leave this earth earlier than many other people, it was still sad when she passed away. Ms. Earl seems like she was an amazing person, and I think there must be a lot of pressure to do justice to such an amazing person in literary form. Perhaps that’s why some of the novel felt a little forced, to me.

And my very different reaction from the majority of readers to this novel resulted in my thinking about context.

A rose by any other name...

A rose by any other name…

Many readers were nerdfighters, a part of the tight-knit community that revolves around the Green brothers, and of which Esther Earl was a large part. And knowing that she was the inspiration, knowing that she is dead, added another dimension to the novel that I didn’t experience. Because I was not a nerdfighter. While I am sad that Esther Earl died so young, and know that she touched a lot of people, I never interacted with her, and so I don’t have the personal connection to the novel The Fault in Our Stars that many other people did.

That’s okay. A novel that helps a lot of people work through difficult emotions and concepts is a great thing. What I question is the novel’s sustainability. In ten years, will people still be as touched by this novel? Will people still be reading this novel?

Will the people so touched by this novel today still be touched by it in a decade?

Daily Post: 3 Questions

Daily Post Prompt: A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece – about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?

  1. What was your annual salary last year?
  2. If you have to purchase an item from QVC, but you can only choose one item, what would you purchase?
  3. Hypothetically speaking, if I was a serial killer, what would be your least favorite way for me to murder you? (Purely hypothetical, of course…)

Plug the Rabbit Hole

You know that comedic story type, where things just keep getting worse & worse, and you assume something awesome will happen near the end to save the story, but instead, it gets still worse? That has been my life lately.

Between my car repairs, pending grad school payments, the trip recently made to Indiana that I couldn’t afford, more car repairs, and the fact that I’m probably not going to get the job I applied for that seemed a good possibility, I’m kind of praying that I just drop dead somewhere.

Also, I’m sitting in a cafe because my boyfriend hates me, and there is a deluge of rain outside.

Also, I don’t even know if I used the phrase “Rabbit Hole” correctly, but I’m not changing it.

Who did you ido…

Who did you idolize as a teenager? “

-The Daily Post

Okay. *cringe* Are you ready? My idol was:

Christopher Pike

Christopher Pike

I was an odd kid. As a teenager, I felt lonely & misunderstood – which is normal, I know, but is also partially my fault. Around the onset of puberty, I began to get really shy, and feel really awkward around other people. Coupling my sudden shyness, which prevented me from easily meeting new people, with my awkward appearance, which was about as pleasant as you would expect from a brace-faced kid with wildly frizzy hair whose posture continually seemed to get worse, and the fact that I was apparently the worst kid ever, since my parents grounded me constantly, and I pretty much lost the friends I had already made. I should have put myself out there, joined some school clubs, or tried out for the school play, or something, but I didn’t.

Instead, I immersed myself even more within the world of books. And my favorite author throughout my teens was Christopher Pike.

I grew up primarily in the nineties, so when I discovered Pike’s writing, he still had an agreement with Scholastic that resulted in his publishing a new novel about every 2 months.

cloud 9

My favorite Pike novel was undoubtedly Master of Murder, which I have probably read at least 20 times. My copy has been thumbed through so often, I’m kind of surprised the cover is still intact.


For those who haven’t read it, Master of Murder is the story of Marvin Summer, the wildly talented, wildly rich teenage author… except that no one knows that he is actually the author of all of the novels that he gets published under the pseudonym Mack Slate. Marvin is smart and funny, and there’s a cute short story about Seymour the Frog (read it) that gets him a B+ in his creative writing class (isn’t that a laugh?). There’s a whole mystery, and he’s maybe getting a second chance with his lady love Shelly Quade (or maybe not…), and he needs to finish the concluding novel of his wildly popular murder-mystery series, as well as solve the possible real-life murder of his old friend & Shelly’s ex-boyfriend, and the murder of his old friend & rival is eerily similar to the murdered chick in his murder-mystery series that he hasn’t figured out the end to yet, and… I. Loved. It. I still do, actually, though I can now appreciate that some of the writing is a bit trite.

My appreciation for Mr. Pike is all tied up with my appreciation for Master of Murder, because though Pike himself has written numerous times that he is not the same person as Marvin Summer, of course I merged them at least a little (and probably a lot) in my mind. I also had dreams of writing a bestselling novel in high school, though the closest to writing a novel that I came was sophomore year, when I wrote a 79 page story that is possibly one of the most horrible things I have ever written. (Horrible in terms of writing, because I wrote some seriously disturbing short stories while in high school.)

I was so infatuated with Mr. Pike, that I wrote a paper about him in my tenth grade government class about how he is a “True American.” My reasoning was that as an author who writes under a pseudonym (though anyone with the most infantile of search capabilities can easily discover his real name is Kevin McFadden), Pike can achieve the money and fame that all Americans kind of want, while simultaneously maintaining anonymity, and thereby avoiding the paparazzi/tabloid hell that celebrities are always complaining about. (This reasoning did not convince my teacher, who gave me a “B.”)

A true american... because everyone knows, the only REAL authors are Am-err-ih-can.

A true american… because everyone knows, the only REAL authors are Am-err-ih-can.

So… there’s my embarrassing teenage idol story. Who was yours?