Book Review: Paper Towns

I’m sad to say I haven’t done much reading this summer. I know, my English teachers would be disappointed in me. I’ve started three different books, and I’ve only managed to finish one. (Not that the other ones were bad, they were just overdue at the library.) So this is why my first book review is coming towards the end of July.

Paper Towns was recommended to me by my friend Katie. She’s a big fan of author John Green, and she thought I would enjoy this novel in particular because it’s set in Florida. The main character is narrator Quentin Jacobsen, who goes by Q, who lives in a suburb of Orlando. His neighbor growing up was Margo Roth Spiegelman, the quintessential girl-next-door: beautiful, mysterious, and unattainable. Q is, of course, in love with Margo, and has been since they were childhood friends. They drifted apart though after a grim incident when they were in elementary school and haven’t been close since.

Orlando Map

That is until one school night weeks before graduation, when Margo appears outside of Q’s bedroom window. She’s on a mission and Q agrees to be her accomplice after little hesitation. And so the two set off on an adventure across Central Florida, enacting revenge on high school classmates and breaking into Sea World. It’s a night Q won’t soon forget, and he sincerely hopes that will bring him and Margo closer.

The next day Margo doesn’t show up at school. People aren’t worried at first- Margo, with her effortlessly cool and adventurous persona, has disappeared before. This time feels different for Q, and it’s not long before he starts finding clues Margo left for him. Soon Q decides that it’s up to him to find Margo, wherever she is. He gets help from his appropriately quirky and nerdy buddies, Ben and Radar, plus Margo’s best friend, Lacey.

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I didn’t have any expectations when I picked up Paper Towns. John Green is actually a pretty big name in the Young Adult publishing world, but I had never heard of him. Regardless, I absolutely devoured this book. I read it over two days, and it was hard for me to put it down. We’ve met the characters of Q and Margo before. He’s the quiet, smart kid- certainly no loner, but definitely not a “cool kid”. She’s the popular girl with a heart. Still, we get to know both of them intimately so they don’t feel like ordinary stock characters. The rest of the friends are the kind of people I would like to hang out with in real life- how often do you get to say that?

Another reason I loved Paper Towns is that it was about Florida, my Florida. For those of you who aren’t Florida (or even U.S.) natives, Florida is a state that is often misrepresented. It’s usually summed up by two things: Disney World and retirees. Instead, I know it is a flat, sprawling suburbia, with perfectly manicured lawns, streets lined with palm trees, and mega-high schools. This is the Florida that Green captures in Paper Towns, and he does it really well because he grew up here too.

Depending on your literature tastes, some of you may feel wary of picking up Paper Towns. I’ll admit I felt “meh” about it when I saw it was a young adult novel. However, just because this book is about teenagers doing teenager-y things, it doesn’t mean it reads like one. Green’s writing is very layered, so there’s psychological and literary perspectives on the characters and the plot. Still, it’s an easy read, and I’d recommend it for a day in, or even a trip to the pool or beach. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual “chick lit” targeted for girls my age.

What do you think? Have you read Paper Towns or any other books by John Green? What have you been reading this summer?

~ Sarah

Girl Crush: Tina Fey

Girl Crush is a new weekly feature in which I discuss a leading lady in show business: talented, admirable, and successful.

Tina Fey on Weekend Update

I’ve been a fan of Tina Fey for years, back when she was the first-ever female head writer at Saturday Night Live and co-anchored “Weekend Update” with Jimmy Fallon. It was always my favorite segment- I wouldn’t go to bed until I watched Fey and Fallon engage in their usual witty banter.

Tina Fey, 40, grew up in Pennsylvania and went on to attend the University of Virginia, graduating with a B.A. in drama. (True story: I seriously considered applying to UVA after I found out Fey went there.) After college, she relocated to Chicago and eventually joined Second City, a famous improv comedy troupe. Following her stint at Second City, she joined SNL as a writer in 1995. In 1999, she was promoted to head writer and the next year Fey began appearing in sketches, notably “Weekend Update”.

For plenty of people, SNL is usually the peak of their careers. Not for Tina Fey- in 2004, while still on the show, she wrote and co-starred in the teen classic Mean Girls. The movie proved to be a critical and commercial success, grossing $129 million worldwide. Then, in 2006, Tina Fey left SNL to work on a new project: 30 Rock.

The Cast of 30 Rock

On the NBC comedy , Tina Fey is a triple threat: writer, producer, actor. Oh, and did I mention she’s also the show’s creator? 30 Rock, which is a behind-the–scenes look at comedy sketch show and is based on Fey’s own experiences, was not immediately a hit with audiences. Nonetheless, the show has won numerous awards, including three Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series. Fey herself has earned plenty of accolades for playing Liz Lemon, including an Emmy.

In 2008, Fey starred in Baby Mama with her former SNL co-star Amy Poehler- the comedy opened at #1 and eventually grossed more than $60 million. That fall, Fey returned to SNL in a guest role as VP candidate Sarah Palin. Her spot-on portrayal of Palin helped boost the show’s lagging ratings and had audiences and pundits alike talking. Not only did she win another Emmy, Tina Fey was named the 2008 AP Entertainer of the Year for having the year’s “greatest impact on culture and entertainment”.

Fey at the 2008 Emmy Awards

It must be awesome to be Tina Fey. Today, 30 Rock has a growing audience and she had another box-office hit with Date Night. And I have a feeling there’s more to come for this comedy superstar- who knows, with the right material she could EGOT! (Tracy Jordan would be jealous.) Fey is one of the most influential people in show business, even appearing in the Time 100, but her life is not very Hollywood- she keeps working hard and has a daughter with husband (and 30 Rock composer) Jeff Richmond. Maybe that’s why, despite all her success, she remains grounded and humble (just listen to one of her acceptance speeches). I absolutely adore her- she’s talented, smart, and sexy. So Tina Fey, I salute you, you “mavericky” maverick.

~ Sarah

P.S. Do you love Tina Fey as much as I do? Which women in entertainment do you look up to?

Nobody’s Perfect

I was originally planning on writing about the start of the NBA Finals and the rekindling one of the greatest rivalries in sports: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Two of the most storied franchises in all of basketball, the previous two NBA champs, are meeting yet again, in a rematch of the 2008 Finals. Oh, it’s on, and it starts tonight.

My plans changed because something happened last night: Armando Galarraga, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, lost out on a perfect game on the 27th out.

Let’s back track here. For those of you who don’t know much about baseball, a perfect game is thrown when the pitcher retires every single batter he faces, not allowing any opposing batters to reach base. Like they say, “27 up, 27 down”. There have only been twenty perfect games in the Major Leagues, dating back to 1880. Twenty- and this includes the two perfect games pitched this past May. Over the years though there have been many games this close to being perfect, absolute heartbreakers.

But not like this one.

The video explains what happened better than I ever could. (EDIT: MLB removed the original video from YouTube because of copyright issues, but the AP link is a pretty good explanation.) That call by umpire Jim Joyce, which was so painfully, glaringly wrong (especially in the replay), is already notorious. It has sparked two major debates in the baseball world: should instant replay be used? Can MLB reverse the call?

It wasn’t until 2008 that baseball began using instant replay to review calls, and it is only sanctioned in three specific instances. Last night’s play at first base is not one of those examples. I remember being surprised when instant replay was finally allowed. Baseball, more than the other professional sports, relies heavily on human judgement. Human interpretation, however, can lead to human error. Not to mention, the league has the utmost regard for its history. For the players and coaches, baseball history is sacred.

Which brings me to debate #2: overturning the call. Commissioner Bud Selig announced that while he will look into the use of instant replay, he will not reverse Joyce’s call. I’m not surprised. While I’m certainly not a fan of Selig, his decision may be better for the sport in the long run. Overturning this one call, even less than 24 hours after game time but without precedent, could’ve opened Pandora’s Box in regards to all the blown calls over the years. Still, it’s a shame that Galarraga’s gem won’t go into the record books as Perfect Game #21, even with an asterisk. The kid doesn’t even have the satisfaction of a no-hitter.

It must be noted that Galarraga, Joyce, and the Tigers team have all been dealing with this situation with such class. Joyce apologized to Galarraga after seeing the replay. Galarraga humbly accepted, saying that he knows “nobody’s perfect”. Throughout the league, Joyce is being heralded as a great umpire- he just made a mistake. It’s so true. When Joyce made the call, he was convinced he made the right call. A lesser umpire would’ve gone against his conviction and called the final out. When Roy Halladay threw his perfect game last week, the strike zone got bigger and bigger as the night went on. The close calls went in Halladay’s favor. That’s just the way it is.

It’s unfortunate that this blown call came at such a pivotal moment- a perfect game. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be such a big story. The fact of the matter is no one is perfect, but some of the mistakes we make can’t be taken back. What’s done is done, and that’s how it will stay for history.

Did you watch the game? Did Selig make the right decision?