Sunday, 31 August 2014

'Looking for Alaska' by John Green: A Book Review

 Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (Fran├žois Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

Why do I do this to myself?

Okay, a quick recap: what did I think about John Green's other novels?
The Fault in Our Stars was good, although quite pretentious. An Abundance of Katherines was okay, although somewhat pretentious. Paper Towns was the worst book I've ever read, and every word on every page of that book was just overflowing with pretense.

So why did I think Looking for Alaska would be any different? Because everyone says it's his best work, apart from TFIOS? Because it's going to be made into a movie? Because I love Hank Green's digital works and I wanted to give his brother another chance?

I don't know why I read this book, but I wish I hadn't.

This is John Green's first novel, but it might as well have been called Paper Teens or Looking for Katherine or The Fault in Our Cigarettes. Honestly, doesn't John Green ever get tired of writing the same story again and again and again? Unpopular and geeky protagonist falls for sexy, confident, interesting girl (or boy, in TFIOS's case) and said protagonist's life changes forever.

 First of all, I don't know why all of Green's books are about pretentious teenagers who can only think and talk about pretentious things. Pretense does not make you look smart. It makes you look pretentious.

In this novel, I assume we're supposed to loooove Alaska. She reminds me of Margo from Paper Towns. Bitchy, bipolar, annoying... but, of course, she's gorgeous and our protagonist is madly in love with her, for reasons I do not quite comprehend.

To make the readers think that Alaska is an independent woman who doesn't care about what people think, John Green makes her an alcoholic, cigarette-smoking feminist who just 'loves sex'. (Alaska talks about her love for sex at least five times in the novel. Okay. Fine. We get it.)
There's nothing wrong with drinking or smoking or having sex, but did he have to shove that fact into our faces every time Alaska was mentioned?

Miles is a pathetic, pretentious fellow who succumbs to peer pressure and starts drinking and smoking because his friends do. I know that this is the truth, that a lot of teenagers have these habits, but why didn't Miles ever think about what he wants? Before coming to this new boarding school, he'd never smoked a cigarette or had a drink. But his new friends offer him some, and who is he to say 'no'?
There's one scene where he coughs after trying to smoke, and after that, he smokes like a chimney. I'd like to have seen a better transition.

The Colonel, Lara and Takumi (the supporting characters) made no impact on me. I did not care for any of them... or for Miles and Alaska.

The entire novel was full of crude jokes, content that I would consider explicit for a book about high school students, and pretentious thinking. It was so exhausting to read this book.

Here are some quotes from the book, and my opinion of each of them:

“When adults say, "Teenagers think they are invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.
(We cannot be born and we cannot die? Yes, we can. Energy cannot be destroyed, but we can. Stop being so pretentious, Miles.)

“It's not because I want to make out with her."
Hold on." He grabbed a pencil and scrawled excitedly at the paper as if he'd just made a mathematical breakthrough and then looked back up at me. "I just did some calculations, and I've been able to determine that you're full of shit.”
(Okay, this was funny. I laughed at this part.)

“It's not life or death, the labyrinth. Suffering. Doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That's the problem. Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of the labyrinth of suffering?”
(Just shut up. Just shut up, just shut up, just shut up.) 

I have had enough of John Green. Honestly. This book is not well-written, it's even more pretentious than Paper Towns (which is saying something), and it's a classic example of how a writer's debut is never his best work.

Sorry, JG.  
I'm going to go with 2 stars out of 5 for Looking for Alaska.
Better than Paper Towns, at least, but it's pathetic compared to TFIOS and AAOK, which were both funny and entertained me thoroughly.

Looking for Alaska has a huuuuge fan following, so let me know in the comments below if you disagree with my review - and be sure to tell me what you loved and didn't love about this book.

See you later, Geeks!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Things I'm Grateful For!

Okay, I'm feeling really awful right now, and just a moment ago, I saw this Humans of New York photo on my news feed. And I thought... well, alright. Let me list down the things I'm grateful for - because no matter how upset and homesick I am right now, my life, in reality, isn't actually that bad.

So... here goes.

1) My Family:
I personally feel like I have the best family in the world. My sister loves and understands me like no one else can, and my parents think I'm the coolest kid since, well, my sister. They may be far, far away right now, but I'll see them in just a few months.
And wherever they may be, they're always with me... in every fibre of my being. We are genetically related, after all!
So thank you, my family, for always being by my side, no matter what. And for all the adorable childhood photos.

2) My Best Friends:
You both know who you are. I've lost touch with a lot of people since school ended... A LOT. And some of those people are the ones I thought I would stay friends with forever.
But you two... it still feels like nothing's changed when I talk to you, even though a lot has. I'm not in the same city as you and we don't get to talk as much as we used to. But our friendship hasn't changed... and hopefully, it never will.
Thank you, my friends, for reminding me of our countless inside jokes, for filling my life with love and laughter and friendship.

3) Food:
Today, I ate a lot of delicious food. Chocolate milk, dosa, cotton candy, chocolate, Maggi... and I like eating food, because it's fun. And good for health. And did I mention how much fun it is?
Thank you, food, for being food.

4) The Internet:
From Google to Youtube to my blog to Facebook to Coursera to torrent websites to everything amazing that you can find online... I can't tell you how thankful I am for the internet. If it weren't for the internet, I wouldn't be able to WhatsApp my darling father, I wouldn't be able to read the news in bed, and most importantly, I wouldn't be able to talk to you, my dear Geeks!
Thank you so much, the internet, for helping me make new friends and learn new things that I wouldn't be able to otherwise. My introverted self is really, really grateful.

5) Books and Education:
Books are my escape. I can leave the world of boredom and enter a world full of fictional people and fictional stories... a world of happiness! Reading is my life. I don't know what I'd do without words on paper... or on a screen.
And I love learning new things. Sure, that may brand me as a 'nerd' or a 'geek'... but that's who I am. I'm going to do a post very soon about the online courses I'm taking. Education is amazing. It is a thought-provoking, enriching experience.
Thank you, books and education, for making me a smarter person.

6) Music:
I like going to college a little early every day. There's a window along the staircase on my classroom floor, and I like to stand by that window, enjoy the cool breeze, plug in my earphones, and sing to myself. I listen to all kinds of music - from pop songs to deep, meaningful songs to the soundtrack of my favourite fandom movies. And that makes me feel really happy and alive.
A lot of people in my class don't understand why I do it. They actually give me the 'Are you crazy?' look when I tell them why I'm standing by a window instead of 'socialising', or whatever it is that people my age are supposed to be doing.
So thank you, music, for helping me figure out which people actually understand me... and for being so epic. Music... music's just amazing.

7) Dance Workouts:
Come on. Dancing. Good music. Getting fit. Having fun. All at once!!! How AWESOME is that?

I'm running out of things right now... but I swear there's more. There's a whole lot more that I'm grateful for. I just can't think of anything right now because... well, because I'm not that happy right now.
But I will be soon. Just because I'm having a bad time right now does not mean it'll be bad forever. And no matter what, I'll have all of the above to cheer me up.

I'm going to listen to some music, read a book, and have some tasty snacks right now. And then I will sleep, with the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
Let me know in the comments below... what things are you grateful for? :)

Until next time, good people!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I Love Myself - Just The Way I Am!

It's two a.m. as I'm writing this, I'm not at all sleepy, and I feel like I really need to talk about this on the blog. So here goes.

A few days ago, something weird happened in class. I'm not going to give you the details, because it really doesn't matter - honestly, it was just a stupid comment made by one of my stupid classmates. But it made me realise that people really tend to judge each other on the basis of looks - which might seem obvious, but... I'm very naive.

And it's true for everyone. Even me. I tend to judge people A LOT. I tend to stay away from people who wear too much makeup or people who wear low-waist jeans and bathroom slippers, because they just don't seem like my kind of friends.

I wish we didn't do that, but we do. I try to stop myself from judging others like this, but sometimes I can't help it. And I know I can't stop others from judging me, and neither do I want to. It's their life, their opinions. I have no say in what they think of me.

But I have a say in what I think of myself. And at the end of the day, that's the one opinion that truly matters.
I've talked about my past life as a people-pleaser before. I used to think that the only way to be happy was to fit in or to make everyone like me. So I tried to change the way I behaved and looked. It didn't make me happy. It just made me hate myself. And that made me realise that if I had to work so hard to try to make people happy... then I was clearly in the wrong place with the wrong people.

I'm glad that I'm not pretending anymore. I'm finally true to myself. But of course, it means that there will be people who'll think I'm weird or different. And that's okay! Because there will be other people who will think I'm the coolest thing since the internet! That's a hell of a lot of cool, by the way. Because the internet is epic.

After that incident in class happened, I started thinking about why that person would say something like that about me. Was it because I don't wear makeup, or because I wear the same old jeans and sport-shoes to college every day? Or because my hair is frizzy, or because I sit at the front of the class and take down notes? Or because I have a blog where I talk about geekie stuff?

That's when I realised that I'm not willing to change even one of those things about me. I'm not going to start wearing heels or foundation and concealer and eyeliner, because I'm not comfortable in that stuff! And I sure as hell am not going to straighten my hair or drink alcohol or quit reading books so that I come across as 'cool'.

According to me - and the people that matter to me - I am an amazing person. I am beautiful, confident, intelligent, and absolutely hilarious. My blog is solid proof of all these things!
Nobody else's opinion matters. Especially not the opinion of some random classmate who barely even knows my name.
I am not going to let anyone else's opinion dictate my behaviour. I love myself just the way I am, for all my strengths and weakness, for all my quirks and pet peeves.
And that is what matters.

So judge me all you want, creatures of the universe. Because I am AWESOME. And that is that. ^_^

Friday, 15 August 2014

The 6 Best Things About Going Back Home

Yes, dearest friends ... it has finally happened. Finally.

Granted, it's not the city or the house I've been living in for the past four years, but it's still home. And it's still good old South India. I've missed my fellow South Indians.

And I know that most of my old and new classmates are back home this weekend (Happy Independence day, Indian Geeks!), so I thought I would voice everyone's thoughts. Being home is the best! And here's why:

1) Family:
Oh, how I've missed my adorable mother and my cute, hyper-active father who calls me 'the darling of India'. A few months ago, I was looking forward to college so I could get away from said parents. Now, I don't know what the hell I was thinking. My parents understand me so perfectly. I don't think anyone apart from my sister knows me as well as my parents do.
 My family is the best family in the world!

2) Friends:
Okay, this doesn't apply to me.
But when you're back in your hometown at the same time as your high school buddies... fun is about to happen, people. You will take the city by storm and raid all your favourite places to hang out. You'll share horror stories of people you've met in your one crazy month of college and everyone will hug each other and laugh and cry and shout.

3) Wi-Fi:
Let me just say it: high-speed Wi-Fi for the win!
That's possibly the best thing about home (I still love you, dear parents). I don't need to wait two hours to download a movie and I won't have to worry about connection problems when I'm Skyping with my best friend.
And if your parents are anything like mine, they only use the internet for email, networking, and occasionally YouTube. So you and I can download things to our hearts' content without having to worry about the monthly usage!
60 GB, people! Hmmm... which TV show should I become addicted to next?

4) Food:
The food in my college is actually really tasty and affordable. But there's something wonderful about coming back home to people who know your favourite dishes by heart - and are willing to prepare those dishes for you.
Say hello to healthy, delicious, wholesome meals that will fill your tummy and still make you long for more!

5) Sleeping:
I slept till noon today after a very, very long time... it felt really good.
No matter what time you wake up at home, you'll still be fed tasty egg-white omelettes and Froot loops and you'll still be showered with so much love. Your parents won't judge you for waking up late because they understand how stressful it is to change cities and start a new life.

6) The Shower:
I have to shower in ten minutes every day because I share a bathroom with a LOT of people. And I have to constantly worry about hygiene and hot water. And no more singing in the shower!
But at home... everything's perfect. I can sing to my heart's content and I can spend an entire hour in the shower without anyone pounding on my door asking me to hurry up. What could be better?

Most importantly... home is where the heart is. There is no place that's more comfortable than home. Of course, everyone's idea of home is different. But to me, home is where I'm closest to my loved ones. And that's where I am, right now. :)

If you've gone home for the weekend, cherish these moments with your friends and family and have as much fun as possible. If you aren't going home any time soon... don't worry. As Luna Lovegood once said, the things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end.

So no matter what, have a great weekend, folks! I'll see you next time.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

5 Ways to Feel Better When You're Sick

Most of the posts I write are usually related to my current situation. So yes, I am suffering from a very bad cold, thanks to the rainy weather here - not to mention the fact that almost all my roommates are sick, too.

Here are some things you - and I - can do to get well soon when we're ill.

1) Don't overdose on medicine:
No matter what you do, your cold is not going to go away in one day. There's no point having four or five tablets daily. Limit yourself to two tablets a day, or consult a doctor if you're unsure.
Personally, I'm very petite and medicine makes me incredibly sleepy, so I only have half a tablet at a time.

2) Don't exert yourself:
Health is one of the most important things in life. No matter what class you have or what meeting you have, try to get as much rest as you can. If it's nothing important, just go home. Your brain is not going to cooperate with you if you're sick. There's no point straining yourself. Get plenty of rest and sleep whenever you can. No all-nighters allowed, Geeks!

3) Don't starve yourself:
I never feel like eating when I'm sick. My appetite completely disappears and all I feel like doing is sleeping.
Sleep is great, but you have to make sure to give your body some energy so it can kick some virus ass while you rest. Even if you're not hungry, have some fruit, warm soup, green tea, soy milk and drink lots of water. Starving is never the answer.

4) Entertain yourself:
I tend to get very emotional when I'm sick. For example, I talked to my mother on the phone and almost burst into tears when she asked me how I was feeling. I don't know why it happened, but it did, and that almost-crying feeling only made my headache and runny nose worse.
Grab your laptop and watch your favourite Youtube videos or TV shows. Listen to upbeat songs. Exchange corny jokes with your Dad. Avoid anything emotional - now would be a good time to catch up on your daily dose of laughter.

5) Stay positive:
I know it's difficult to feel happy when you're sick. This is possibly the first time that I've been sick without my mother to take care of me, and I can't tell you how much I miss her. (Oh, great, I'm getting emotional again. What is up with that?)
Feeling like shit will not make you feel better. You have to stay positive and remind yourself that you are strong and awesome. You've been through this before and you'll get through this illness again. Remember to entertain yourself, and smile and laugh as much as you can. 

I'm going to have some dal rice, take my medicine and go to bed early. Hope I get better over the weekend - and you, too, if you're ill.

Stay excellent, friends!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

4 Ways To Make New Friends!

Greetings, fellow Geeks!

In movies and on television, people always meet the Friendship One the moment they step into the new world.

But I can tell you from personal experience that it does not happen all the time. I've been in college for around three weeks now, and... let me be honest: I really don't think I've made a lot of progress in the Friendship department.
So today, I'm going to help you - and myself - make friends in a new environment. Whether you're changing schools, going to college, or moving to a new city, I hope you find these tips helpful.

1) Move on:
Fine, I admit it! Right now, when I think about friendship, I think of my high school friends, and I can't even imagine replacing them with random new people who know nothing about me.
But here's the deal: I won't be replacing my friends; I'll just be making new ones. And that's not a bad thing at all. Sooner or later, I might lose touch with my high school friends, and I'll need someone to fill the void. Humans are social animals, after all.

That's the first step: understand the need to make new friends, and accept the possibility that your existing friendships may not last forever. And even if they last forever, there's nothing wrong with adding some more names to that 'friends forever' list! So don't forget about your existing friends, but don't cling to their memories either.

2) Socialise:
I'm not a party-goer. I don't enjoy crowded places or loud dance music. But that doesn't mean I can't make new friends! I can meet potential college friends anywhere: be it in class, in the canteen, or even on the road, struggling to find an auto rickshaw!

A lot of people think they're just not cut out for socialising because they're not outgoing or extroverted.  But you don't need to step outside your comfort zone to socialise. All you need is the motivation to make new friends, and then nothing will be able to stop you. Just look around at the sea of people in your school or at your workplace. Is there anyone that seems approachable? Go up to them and say 'hello'. And if they ignore you? Well, their loss. You're awesome.

3) Say 'goodbye' to restrictions:
My friendships back home revolved around shared interests like books or games. So I've become used to talking about Pokemon and Harry Potter with my friends.
But is that the only reason why the friendship works? No. We may like books, but our friendship has lasted for so long because we care about each other and will always have each others' backs. And that's what matters in a friendship.

Even if you don't find anyone who shares your hobbies or interests, it's okay! Don't decide against befriending someone simply because they don't know who Peeves the Poltergeist is. Why don't you ask them what they like? Maybe you can pick up their hobbies and they can pick up yours. Or maybe you'll realise that this new person has the best sense of humour or maybe this person really understands you, even though he or she doesn't understand your love for a particular TV show.

4) Don't be judgmental:
 I tend to judge people A LOT. If the person looks extremely cheerful or talkative or excited, I'll be really intimidated. And bathroom slippers, low-waist jeans or a face painted with makeup will make me want to run away as fast as I can. 

But if I overlook these superficial things, maybe I can see that the person is incredibly cool and friendship-worthy!

You can't have a friendship at first sight and you definitely can't have a No-Way-In-Hell friendship at first sight. Try saying 'hi' to this person and see if they seem nice. Once you get to know each other, that initial first impression won't matter at all.

So those are my four tips for building new friendships. And it all begins with a 'hello' and just a few more words:

And who knows how things will go from there?

From now on, I'm going to do my best to take my own advice and hopefully meet my future best friends. I'm also going to try and talk to one new person every day.
Do you have any tips to help me make new friends? Then leave them in the comments below. Trust me, I need all the help I can get!

Bye for now, Geeks!