When was the last time you read a book from cover to cover? The last time you read your way into a whole new universe, barely pausing to take a breath between chapters, the relationships and characters becoming as familiar to you as the people in the next room?
For me, it was over the last three days in which I read my way through Looking For Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, both by the amazing author and youtuber John Green. While I consider myself a huge fan of John Green - Crash Course World History pretty much saved my life right before my exam on the Crusades, and god knows what I would have written about in my English Literature exam without having watched his multiple and brilliant videos on The Great Gatsby (thanks, basically) - it occurred to me the other day that I had only read one of his books.
Despite the fact that, in my opinion, if you cried as many tears as I did while reading The Fault In Our Stars, then you don't really need to read any other JG books to call yourself a number one fan, I decided, seeing as I was at the moment of this realisation, actually in a bookshop, with a giftcard burning a hole in my purse, looking at a sign announcing: "Buy One, Get One Half Price!" I decided that the universe was probably trying to tell me something.
So I bought the aforementioned LFA and AAOK, took them home, got back from work the following day and then had precisely no human interaction until I had finished them both. (Okay, I'm exaggerating slightly, I did have to, like, talk to my family and other people who were physically in my house or otherwise un-ignorable) but I literally could not put these books down.
I read TFIOS in November last year, around the time I read The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, and absolutely fell in love with it. This may be one of the reasons I didn't read any of the other available JG books for so long - the worst thing about discovering an amazing author is always the fear that the one book you loved so much happens to be a fluke and the rest of their body of work is nowhere near as good.
However, this was not the case this time. Although LFA didn't quite live up to the expectations I had for it (but to be fair they were pretty - extremely - high) once I had got into the characters and the story I found myself laughing, crying, full-on sobbing at one point, and basically just experiencing the emotional rollercoaster along with Pudge, The Colonel, Takumi, Alaska and Lara. The entire book is a whirlwind of excitement, drama, love, and the kind of high-school experience everyone (secretly) wishes, aside from the obvious exception, they could have had. Read it - I promise you won't regret it for a second. Cheesy as it may be: it will change the way you see the world.
AAOK was, surprisingly, just as good as the other two books, but in a way that snuck up on me. Colin and Hassan, Lindsey and Katrina, The Other Colin and his friends, not to mention Hollis and all 19 of the Katherines, are characters you believe in, laugh with, cry over and eventually matter to you in the way that makes you sad when you have to put the book down and realise there's no more story left. (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE WRITE A SEQUEL, JOHN GREEN.) I felt that the power of the message hits you harder in AAOK, maybe because you don't expect it as much. The book appears, at first and in its many laugh-out-loud hilarious moments, to be more of a comedy than TFIOS or LFA, both of which are pretty much sob-fests for a good 75% of the pages, but surprisingly its just as poignant and touching as you would expect any good read to be. Read this one too - unless laughing and crying your way through a roadtrip, a mystery, a broken heart, a disastrous pig hunt and 19 crushingly disappointing relationships doesn't sound like a good idea to you (you freak.) And don't worry, understanding maths isn't in anyway essential to understanding the story, which revolves around the hopeless, but permanently hopeful, child "prodigy" Colin.
Never stop writing stories John Green. I now have to go and buy his other two books (Paper Towns and Will Grayson, Will Grayson) just to see if he can maintain this streak of writing incredible, heart-breaking, hilarious and unforgettable novels. Is it just me who wants to live in a world where these wonderful, unique people are real? I want to camp out in a forest with Alaska, explore Gutshot, Tennessee with Colin, and fly to Amsterdam with Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. The actors have been cast for The Fault In Our Stars movie, my heart is already waiting to be crushed into a zillion pieces all over again and all I need now is for Kaya Scodelario to be given the role she was clearly born to play... (no prizes for guessing - could there be a better Alaska Young?)
To be honest, all I have to say to anyone, who, like me, is putting off the point when they have to admit to themselves that its time to read another John Green book is to promise them they won't be disappointed. Whether you choose to go on a road trip and attempt to convert love into an algorithm (confusing maths thingy) or go to a school where pranks are a way of life and the only crime is getting caught, discover rooms with books for walls and strawberry wine buried under the fields, whichever incredible world you choose to enter, the one thing you won't be is disappointed.
As John Green says: "Books belong to their readers," and TFIOS, LFA and AAOK now belong to me the way that I Capture The Castle, The Great Gatsby and all the Harry Potters do, earning their place as My Favourite Books.