Smackdown Books 2019

Piecing Me Together
We Are Okay
Hello, Universe
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
The Marrow Thieves
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
The Poet X
Children of Blood and Bone
Far from the Tree
Long Way Down
The Goat
Amina's Voice
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess
The First Rule of Punk
24 Hours in Nowhere
The Astonishing Color of After
Obsessed: : A Memoir of My Life with OCD
Train I Ride

Monday, April 1, 2013

Inside Out and Back Again vs. The Fault in Our Stars

First off, I am still shocked that Inside Out and Back Again beat out Raven Boys to make it this far. Not saying that Inside Out isn't a good book, but just isn't nearly as good as the other one.

Going into this round, I pretty much knew who my winner was going to be, so I kind of had it in for the other book from the beginning. Then upon opening it, seeing that it was all poetry, it kind of made me hate it right from the hop.

But then something weird happened...I read it. And I kind of liked it. Kind of.

 Inside Out is a pretty decent read. An extremely fast one, to be sure. There are some strong poems in there, ones that I could actually see myself using in a class to analyze and interpret. But as a complete narrative, this story is definitely lacking. I found that there was minimal character development, and to summarize a discussion I had with Vanessa on the book, the conflicts are way too easily resolved. Things are bad in Saigon. We move to the US. Done. No problems. We move to Alabama. That's weird. But we get over it. I can't speak English. Then I learn. So that's fine. People seem to be mean to me. But then I make friends so it's all good. Everything in this book is too simple. There could have been so much pain about the seclusion of being lost without language, of being alone in a new, scary place. But I got no sense of that. I think the author truly missed the boat by writing this as a collection of poetry, because the story severely lacks depth, in my opinion. Like I said, there were some good poems, as individual works. As a complete story, there isn't much here. Which I am still surprised it beat out Raven Boys. I liked this book because it was quick and painless, but I feel the novelty of it being poems did the story a great disservice.

Now, on to The Fault in Our Stars. I feel I need to defend this book to all comers. I have taught this book already as a novel study in a grade 9 Language Arts class, and I will be doing it again this semester. I feel like I have built this book up a lot at school, and now I am willing to fight for it.

There are a few reasons why this book is my unquestioned winner and should advance into the finals: 1. Hazel is a loveable character. Her sarcasm is infectious, and her perceptions of the world are something that teenagers can easily get on board with. 2. It is sad. Like, truly sad. Not just because of things that happen in the novel, but there are certain passages or lines that can truly tug at the heart strings in an honest way. 3. Hazel's "Oblivion" speech in the first chapter and the "Infinity" speech near the end. 4. I have seen first hand that this novel has the power to get students talking about a book, in an environment where they typically are not talking about novels. This book was a huge hit in my class, more so than I would have hoped or expected. People laughed out loud while reading it, and there were more than a couple of students that admitted to tears. I am excited to read it again with another class this term. 5. Despite people who accuse John Green of taking advantage of the "sick lit" sub-genre, he does it to perfection. This is not a cancer book, it is a book where great characters happen to have cancer. It is far more than that a Nicholas Sparks-esque love story where inevitably someone is sick and dies.

TFiOS is not perfect. The section in Amsterdam is not my favorite part of the book, and it kind of drags on. But it has purpose. I would argue that this is only John Green's third best novel (that he wrote on his own, so I'm not counting Will Grayson, Will Grayson). However, despite the few flaws it may have, this book is funny, it is sad, and it is popular. Kids like to read it. And I would argue that is more than half the battle.

With no doubt in my mind, The Fault in Our Stars must move on. I will lose my mind if Inside Out and Back Again manages to sneak through on this one.

If this is the round where we get to select our zombie picks, I'm going for Raven Boys, because it should have been in this round against TFiOS to begin with.


  1. Do you really think Raven Boys should beat The Fault in Our Stars?

  2. Definitely no shot that Raven Boys would beat out TFiOS. I just think it should have been the one competing against it in this round, because I think Raven Boys is better than Inside Out.

  3. At this point in the Smackdown I would e spect two great books to be facing off nose to nose to nose - like the Battle of Alberta. The problem was this was the Battle of Alberta... A rather one sided affair lacking contest and engagement. From the first few lines of Inside Out the winner for me was decided and the rest of the book was purely academic. To give Inside Out credit I will want a copy for my classroom library as the story is a valuable one with a lot of teachable sections.

    I also think that there are a few flaws in Fault in Our Stars but I will save those for the next round.