The best paragraph of this book comes in the last chapter when Davis tells Aza why he chose to disclose a truth when hiding it seemed far more profitable for the stakeholders (including himself), and Aza accepts it without demur as if she saw it coming. In that one moment, John Green elevates his troubled protagonists to the admirable heights of selflessness and empathy, courage and love.
Green’s adept pen moves beautifully in sculpting his mains characters who reside at Indianapolis – the 16-year old nerd, Aza Holmes, with a obsessive-compulsive disorder, her hyperactive classmate, Daisy Ramirez, with a teenage fantasy fan-fiction series to her credit and her recluse classmate, Davis Pickett, with a penchant for stargazing.
When Davis’ father, billionaire Russell Pickett, disappears a day before his house is to be raided, floodgates in police and media open up and a bounty of a hundred thousand dollars is announced for his capture. The cue is just enough for Daisy to put on her investigative glasses, thrust one on Aza and together, embark on a trail that is fraught with adventure and adversity.
I was drawn deep into the spiral, reflecting on the cover page, early in the book and discover its menacing interpretation in Aza’s character. Walking forever on the edge of normalcy and anxiety, she feels the knot tighten around her pit with every bout. Her constant fear of contracting C.diff and addiction to cleanse herself through rubbing and drinking of sanitizer reveals the dark side of a young, susceptible and inquisitive mind that takes the boon and bane of too much information head-on. Davis’ self-effacing avatar stays clear of excesses and hence, his lonely countenance under the night sky of many stars becomes easy to receive. Daisy brings the necessary humor to the otherwise bland lives of the other two but barring a few occasions, secures the chuckles well. Green continues to rely on his tested levers of loss and grief, vulnerability and tentative love, and in the process, builds a first half that is solid, engaging and compassionate. The narrative, though, slumps in the second half. There are multiple, disjointed chapters in the second half that pull down the momentum and one is tempted to consider if this is a conscious tactic of the author to whet the reader’s appetite inching closer to the finale. But even though the climax in itself isn’t spectacular, it is the cause behind it that gets Green, his prize. His characters have hearts which they wear on their sleeves.
The book is a breeze and is peppered with beautiful portions that is, by now, hallmark of Green. From Star Trek to Descartes, Tuatara to Microbiome, he infuses his narrative with myriad dust that sparkle on their own. I might recommend this book only for the blog entries Davis scribbles in incognito mode!
The last Green I read was The Fault in Our Stars and it left my eyes moist. This one, though, left me tranquil, like how you might feel when you survive a difficult night and open your eyes to the sun.