by John Green, 2005
John Green's first novel (at the tender age of I think 27). He also wrote "An Abundance of Katherines" which I reviewed a while back.
The story starts as Pudge, a high school boy with no friends, decides to transfer to a boarding school in Alabama to, as he puts it, "seek the Great Perhaps." The Great Perhaps was mentioned in someone's famous last words before dying, which Pudge takes a strange interest in. Throughout the book he quotes people's dying words with a morbid interest.
He arrives at boarding school, meets his roommate, and begins the various lessons of a young person's life: drinking, smoking, sex, and pranks. All of these "firsts" are written with a freshness and awkwardness that feels authentic.
The book is split into two parts. The first is designated "Before", and each chapter begins with how many days before it is. It begins "one hundred thirty six days before." Before what, the reader doesn't know. The tension builds though as we get closer to the day of the event.
The second half of the book is designated "After", and again, each chapter begins with how many days after it is. The tension fades as the memory of the event fades.
All in all, a good book for revisiting those awkward days of teenagedness. Tense, dramatic, and sad, but illuminated by learning and dare I say, enlightenment.