I have depression and when writing my thesis it was particularly bad. I came to the disconcerting conclusion that I couldn’t write a single coherent thesis sentence, but I could read book, after book, after book. Sadly none of these books were part of my lit review. Runaways is listed in my Literature Cited (as opposed to my Reference List) but reading all the vols I’ve got one after the other without a break in between (and this wasn’t the first time, so I already knew what happened) didn’t improve my thesis.

After whinging to my doctor about my inability to write a thesis, but my perfect ability to read a book (as long as it had no connection to my thesis) he told me that while depression makes thinking complex thesis thoughts pretty much impossible, reading, for me, is as automatic as breathing. This leads to the interesting hypothesis that if I stopped reading would I stop breathing? For my continued existence I’m not going to test that one out.

During various periods of automatic reading during the year, I discovered what’s good to read when you’re having a bad day and what you should save for a good day, thus follows my comparison of Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson (she of the headless girl brigade) and Paper Towns by the Real John Green. Sadly I break all the rules of reviewing including those laid out by pro-reviewers such as RealJohnGreen and Shannon Hale.

My rules for reviewing are easy to follow for any novice reviewer:

  1. Frantically try to remember the names of characters. It helps if you have the book on hand, but if the library threatened you with a debt collector cause you still hadn’t returned it, or some annoying pup chewed it up, this can be problematic.
  2. Write “I loved [insert title of book].” Alternatively try “This book captivated me” for a bit of variety.
  3. Because you’re writing this in some word program, highlight loved/captivated and go to thesaurus to find a word with more syllables. This word program you’re using will also fix all your sp. mistakes – very unprofessional.
  4. Add lots of spoilers cause the best bits of books are always at the end.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson Luckily for me, Suite Scarlett has her name in the title, so that was easy. Luckily for Scarlett the headless girl brigade has taken its last head and her pretty face adorns the hardcover of Suite Scarlett. First spoiler: Scarlett thinks her sister Lola* is the beautiful one in the family, but a very clever aside from someone sets the record straight. I loved that line because Scarlett never even noticed.

I read the paperback, which has a key with the NY skyline as the lock, highly appropriate for a family who own and live in an NY hotel. Unfortunately for Scarlett this isn’t as fun as it sounds – she has to work in said hotel all summer long. But assorted adventures, romances and impromptu venue changes for their production of Hamlet ensue. Even when things get difficult for O’Hara I wasn’t reduced to tears – a good sign when pretty much everything was reducing me to tears the weekend I read it. And Hamlet almost became a comedy in the hands of the entertaining theatre troupe, complete with unicycles – always the best way to get around.** My recent listening to Oliver Twist revealed a thoughtful insight on tears,

He begged, in an encouraging manner, that she should cry her hardest: the exercise being looked upon, by the faculty, as strongly conducive to health. It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper.

Mr Bumble, in saying this, was bagging his wife and when she realised her tears weren’t doing their work, she proceeded to beat him, which he deserved. But it was nice to know tears are good for the health.

Back to Scarlett, if the best thing you achieved in your day was to do the dishes from the last three days, but only so you had space to cook dinner. All you cooked was French toast, but you managed to burn it. Don’t despair, Suite Scarlett will lighten up your evening. On the other hand you should steer clear of Paper Towns. I know what a truly amazing writer John Green is, and he’s up there as one of my fav writers, but I finished Paper Towns wondering why I hadn’t liked it.

Paper Towns by John Green Unfortunately I can’t remember Mr Protag’s name. It was first person (i think!?) so that didn’t help, but I’m pretty sure his name was something weird. I do remember Margo Roth Spiegelman (although sp. might not be quite right). And I remember their all night adventure, a fiendishly funny way to start a book and not part of my dislike. It was months after reading Paper Towns that I realized thinking

Her strings will not break. Her strings will not break. Her strings will not break.

most of the way through the book is not conducive to a good reading experience. That was when I decided I’d re-read Paper Towns again sometime, when my strings weren’t so close to breaking.

For some reason I haven’t learnt from my experience of Suite Scarlett and Paper Towns. Finding Girl at Sea by MJ and The Beginner’s Guide to Living by Lia Hills on the Inkys and the library I read Girl at Sea when I was feeling fine and all its cheeriness was wasted, although I had fun reading it. Then I began The Beginner’s Guide to Living. I knew this was a mistake, what with the subject matter and a first line

She looks good for a corpse.

But Lia Hills is a poet. A poet writing prose can be an awe inspiring thing:

There’s no space for him, for anything, except this throbbing. A thick cord of grief winding itself around me.

I’m going to have to wait for the rest of the metaphors because after reading a third, my strings had stretched too far. I removed my bookmark and went onto something else.

Thank you MJ and the RealJohnGreen for writing the stories you do.

* I remembered Lola’s name because I once had a pup called Lollopy Lola. She chewed a book, not lent by the library, but by my friend. And I didn’t even buy him another copy!? I just gave the chewed copy back to him – no wonder I haven’t seen him in a while.
** My parents still have the unicycle my brother used to ride when he was a kid. He’s visiting now so I have to remember to ask him if he can still ride one-wheeled.

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