Star Wars: Ahsoka by EK Johnston – A Book Review

Perhaps the greatest Star Wars character to never actually appear in one of the films, Ahsoka Tano broke out during the animated Clone Wars series.  If you’re unfamiliar with her, she once served as Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan.  She and Anakin had an incredible bond, and when she left the Jedi Order, it broke Anakin’s heart.  In fact, her departure coupled with the perceived betrayal of the Jedi absolutely led to his downfall.  One must wonder if he could have resisted the Dark Side had Ahsoka been with him.

Nonetheless, due to her break with the Jedi, she escaped Order 66.  Ahsoka picks up later after Palpatine took control.  Now permanently on the run, Ahsoka must use an alias wherever she goes and downplay her connection to the Force.  She’s a hero at heart, though, and like her Master, she can’t help but get involved when she must.

The first half of the book is comparable to the other Star Wars books in that she lands on a remote planet, she meets characters of no real significance, and a small–ultimately inconsequential–operation begins against the Empire.  I felt real disappointment at this premise because everything felt rather … unimportant.  The beginning of this book seemed entirely forgettable.

But then the second half of the book happened … and I couldn’t put it down.

I won’t spoil it for you, but Ahsoka leads directly into both the cartoon Rebels and Star Wars:  A New Hope … maybe even Rogue One.  Want to know why the Sith’s lightsabers are red?  Want to know how Ahsoka ended up with white lightsabers?  Want to know how Ahsoka became Fulcrum?  Want to witness the beginning of the Inquisitors?  Ever wondered about Bail Organa’s role with the Rebels?  The second half of the book answers all of those questions and sets Ahsoka up for big, big things.

Johnston understands Ahsoka’s character well, especially in terms of where she was in Clone Wars and where she’s going in Rebels.  I’m not sure how I’d feel about it without  having watched both cartoons, but as it stands, Ahsoka ended up being incredibly satisfying.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – A Book Review

A friend recommended I give We Were Liars a read, and so I promptly picked it up at my local library.  I’m unfamiliar with E. Lockhart, but the blurbs, particularly John Green’s, encouraged me.

Most of We Were Liars captivates.  Our main character and narrator, Cadence, belongs to an old old money family and she, along with her cousins, spend their summers on their own private island off the coast of Massachusetts.  Something happened to Cadence on that island, though, something that resulted in amnesia, crippling migraines, and depression.  The majority of the book sets up the mystery, providing clue after clue as it races along, and it is difficult to put down.

However, the ending fell a little flat with me.  Without giving anything away, I felt the conclusion switched direction without much precedence and that abrupt shift in tone disheartened me.

We Were Liars features young adult characters.  They are filthy rich thanks to their racist grandfather and probably too clever.  We even have a festering teenage romance between Cadence and Gat, an Indian cousin who is not really blood-related and forever falls into the category of “outsider.”

But despite some of the genre’s cliches, I must admit the sparse language, short page count, and mysterious plot kept me turning page after page.  I think some will love this book and most will like it very much.  Sure, the ending disappointed me, but the book as a whole proved satisfying.

Though, admittedly, I think John Green may have been a little too generous.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – A Book Review

The Fault In Our Stars is a must-read, and I don’t use that term lightly.

There are some books that simply must be experienced, and this is one of them.  From now on, when anyone asks me for a book recommendation, this book will be at the top of my list.  I say this not because it changed my life—it didn’t.  But, as an avid reader, this book resonated with me so deeply that it will forever be ingrained as a part of my existence.

The story is all too real.  A sixteen year old with terminal cancer meets a contemporary who happens to have been cured of his cancer.  They hit it off immediately, and she introduces him to a book that she loves, and he falls in love with it, too, as well as the girl.  Of course, falling in love with someone who has terminal cancer is a complicated situation at best.  Before long they take it upon themselves to reach out to the author of their favorite book, and the result is not exactly what they expected.  Furthermore, as one would imagine with a book featuring cancer afflicted characters, heartbreak ensues, but not necessarily in the way most readers predict.

Green’s teenagers are precocious, witty, and downright hilarious.  This is a difficult juxtaposition for many readers because these characters, for the most part, do not expect to live normal lives or, in some cases, to live at all.  It feels inappropriate to laugh at things these characters say and do, but I think that’s the point Green is trying to make.  Life is horrible, wonderful, and everything in between, and when we’re not crying, we’re laughing.  The teens pull no punches, they accept their reality, and they force the reader to make peace with their burden as well.

Green has written a book unlike any other I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few.  At one moment he had me rolling, the next he had me nearly in tears.  The Fault In Our Stars never felt completely realistic only because the characters—Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, and both sets of parents—were too charismatic to be real.  They leapt off the page and demanded to become a part of my everyday life.  I struggled with this, because I don’t know anyone quite as charming, funny, or quick on their feet as these characters.  But, that’s also what makes them so utterly lovable.  They are not real, and so they are allowed to say the exact right thing at the exact right time.  They are welcome to charm the heck out of us.  A book like this is meant to be magical in many ways, and tragic in others.  After all, nearly all of the characters are made to suffer, so why shouldn’t they get to go down as some of the most dynamic literary figures to have ever existed upon the page?  Why can’t they be the coolest kids in the room?

I am a married thirty-six year old father of two, an English teacher, an author, and I generally don’t read much young adult literature.  With all that being said, The Fault In Our Stars is now counted among my favorite books and I urge you to read it as soon as possible.