‘It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.’
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
This is the first book I have chosen this year as part of the 2019 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. (If you love books, you must check it out, it is the friendliest part of the internet for bibliophiles). The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period.
The first category is ‘A book about mental health.‘ I have vowed to try and pick unread books from my TBR to fit the challenge categories, rather than buy new ones, which is where this comes in. It has been sat on my shelf since publication. Well, its time has finally come!
Is it safe to admit that I have never read a John Green book before? I know I’m probably the only person left on the planet who hasn’t read ‘The Fault In Our Stars,’ but I’ve avoided it as I thought it would really upset me. I decided it was about time I did read one, since he is one of the biggest selling authors on the planet, and I had this book waiting that seemed to fit the category. I bought it last year mainly because of the title, which piqued my curiosity and, I have to say, I was very happy when I got to the part when the title finally became clear!
So, what did I make of my first John Green novel? Well, the man can certainly write. His characters were fully developed and very intricate. I enjoyed his prose style and he obviously has a good grasp of how people, especially teenagers, tick. The book, whilst seeming to cover a very small life, explores in detail a terrifying and truly problematic mental health issue for the main character, Aza, and how this impacts every part of her life, severely, to the point that she can barely function in any ordinary way. The mystery part of the story is incidental and heavily side-lined, and the main focus is most definitely on the mental health topic and, in this, I think the blurb is a little misleading. Anyone buying this book looking mainly for a detective story is going to end up a little disappointed.
It’s quite clear that I am not the target audience for this book. It is definitely aimed at the YA market and, to be honest, those of a maturer persuasion looking back with years of like experience may find the adolescent navel-gazing a little self-indulgent. But this is how life is when you are a teenager. You do believe you are the centre of the world and your problems take on a magnified importance that can be over-whelming. Perspective comes with age and experience (hopefully, not always). Kids are monumentally self-absorbed and Green captures this very well and reflects it in his writing. And there is no doubt that any deviation in your personality from the norm at this age is terrifying. That’s not to say that mental health issues in adolescents should be trivialised or discounted. They are a real issue, and actually a lack of experience and perspective can magnify them and make them much harder to manage successfully. Aza’a issues are extreme and would be horrifying for anyone to deal with and, for me, the thoughts that she is experiencing are grotesque and would be impossible to live with, for child or adult. The author does an amazing job of displaying Aza’s thought spirals and the perpetual horror she is trapped in as she fights, and fails, to control them.
This book is an illuminating portrayal of the effects mental health issues can have on every part of a person’s life, and how surmounting these things can seem impossible. I think it will be more appealing to younger readers, just because of the focus on teenage lives, but the writing is without doubt compelling and it was a rewarding read. A little too harrowing emotionally to be classed as enjoyable, but definitely illuminating.
If you like the sound of the book, you can get a copy here.
About the Author
John Green is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars, and Turtles All the Way Down. He is also the co-author, with David Levithan, of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He was the 2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award, a 2009 Edgar Award winner, and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Green’s books have been published in more than 55 languages and over 24 million copies are in print. John is also an active Twitter user with more than 5.4 million followers.
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