Tag Archives: ya fiction

Paper Towns: Revisited

My sophomore year of college I read a John Green book called Paper Towns and wrote a none-too-complimentary review of it here. Now, two and a half years later, said book has been made into a movie (which is fabulous, by the way, you should definitely watch it – after you read the book of course), prompting me to reread the thoughts I’d had upon finishing the book. In 2013, my biggest problem with the book was its perpetuation of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character type. The fact that the entire plot of the book revolved around a girl who everyone thought they knew but no one actually did left a bad taste in my mouth. After leaving the movie theater there was no bad taste, quite the opposite in fact. I thought the movie did an excellent job of destroying the MPDG and showing that the real Margo Roth Spiegleman was nothing like what Q had made her out to be. I would be interested to reread the book and see if I still get a bad taste, and the movie was just that much better at explaining the concept and subsequently unraveling it, or if I find that I somehow missed the point the first time around. I have a strong suspicion it would be the latter. I like to think that in the two and a half years since I wrote that review I have grown immensely as a person, become a better critical thinker (If I haven’t then thousands of dollars and hours were wasted for that Political Science bachelors because let me tell you I have no “practical” skills) and gained more understanding of the world and people around me. What saddens me now is that as this story reaches a wider audience, there might be more people like 19-year-old me who misconstrue the ultimate message of Paper Towns. John recently wrote an article on Medium about Paper Towns press that addresses this issue:

Like, there’s a line in the beginning of the novel: “Everyone gets a miracle.” The male narrator of the story believes his miracle is Margo Roth Spiegelman, the character Cara plays in the movie. Later in the book, the boy realizes that Margo is not a miracle, that she is just a person, and that his imagining her as a miracle has been terribly hurtful to them both. But still, I was asked over a hundred times, “Who’s your miracle?” At first, I tried to fight it, tried to argue that we must see people as people, that we must learn to imagine them complexly instead of idealizing them, that the romantic male gaze is limiting and destructive to women. That’s the whole point of the story to me.

John, I get it now! I understand now that writing about something doesn’t have to mean perpetuating it, that writing about something could bring it to the attention of someone who had never thought about it before. I understand now that the point of Paper Towns isn’t to glorify the MPDG, but to challenge readers (and watchers) to imagine others complexly. This is not a retraction of my previous post – in fact, I still agree with almost everything I wrote, and I’m proud of 19-year-old Megan for thinking about the oppressive societal standards women live under – but a reflection. I’ve heard movie production for Looking For Alaska is moving right along, so we’ll see if I need to write another one of these after seeing its adaptation. I for one hope so.

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Meeting Cassie Clare: The YA family

I’m a book nerd. Obviously. So what to book nerds do when they find out when they’re going on vacation? They go online and see if any of their favorite authors are going to be there at the same time. At least that’s what I did last summer when I found out I was going to San Diego, and by divine intervention or dumb luck, the author of one of my favorite book series, Cassandra Clare, was going to be in town right in the middle of my vacation.

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Of course I had to go. I made room in my luggage for her most recent publication, City of Lost Souls, and headed west. I somehow convinced my parents to use the rental car and drive me to the “Mysterious Galaxy” bookstore, where a hundred teen girls and tween girls with their mothers packed into the little store. It was the floor or standing room only by the time I arrived.

I knew about Cassie through social media, Tumblr, Twitter and the like, and I am happy to report she is just as sweet and sarcastic as she seems online. She read aloud the “manor scene” from Jace’s point of view, an obvious big hit for those who have read the books. (And if you haven’t, I definitely recommend them if you like YA fantasy.)

She then opened the floor for questions. She talked about her books and what’s coming next for her beloved characters and the Shadowhunter realm in general. She also talked about her personal life, what she likes to read, where she gets her ideas from. These answers held the most interest for me. She said she never reads books in the same genre as what she’s writing, she’ll read something more contemporary, like John Green or a murder mystery. She explained that if she reads something in the same genre she’ll start to worry, “Oh my god, this book has a talking cat, I have a talking cat, I have to kill the cat!” she joked. There are always going to be similarities in books, that’s what makes it a genre, she said.

After her talk, it was time for the signing. We lined up outside in the bookstore in the lovely San Diego dusk and waited. One of the best things about going to nerdy events is that everyone there is a nerd. Some are bigger nerds than others, but everyone, at some level, is a nerd, which means more than likely you’ll have more in common with them than you would the average Joe on the street. In line there was no shortage of talk on Harry Potter, Hunger Games, the Green brothers and nerdfighteria, Doctor Who, Sherlock, the list could go on and on. Name any nerdy fandom you can think of, it was represented there. It’s great to be surrounded by people who love (OK, are obsessed with) the same things you do, without inhibition, and you can just let go and be yourself. I’ve also found people at these kind of events are incredibly nice and courteous, especially compared to say a sporting event. When we’d gone through the line, the girl I had been talking with asked me for my Twitter handle, said “It was so nice to meet you!” and gave me a big hug. We still fangirl together over Twitter occasionally.

Cassie herself was, as I mentioned earlier, lovely. She greeted me when I walked up and asked me where I was from. Her movie was being casted at the time, and they had announced who would be playing Alec earlier that day, so naturally I gushed about how attractive he is. She responded enthusiastically, saying “I met him the other day and I was just like, ‘What’s it like to be so tall and incredibly good-looking?” She also told me she was taking a poll, and asked who my favorite characters were from each series. I replied, “Is it cliche if I say Jace and Will?” She said something to the effect of, Ah, the Herondale boys. Of course not! and told me they were in the lead. She was a sweetheart and posed for a picture with me after she signed my book. It was an overall great experience, and just another reason I love my YA fiction family.

 

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