TGIF: A Very Special Episode

image courtesy of greads.com

TGIF at GReads is a fun feature for recapping the week’s posts (which I usually skip) and answering a book-blogging question posed by Ginger.

This week the question is: Issue Books: Which books have you found to be very rewarding when it comes to tackling tougher issues?

My short answer: anything by John Green

My long, meandering answer:
Ok, so when I think about “issue books,” I think of those very special episodes of TV series I’d watch as a kid.  You know, like that Saved by the Bell episode where Jessie gets hooked on uppers.  Or the episode of Captain Planet where that one kid started popping pills and they made his eyes red (Wikipedia informs me that this episode was called “Mind Pollution” which makes me laugh).  And the thing is I HATE very special episodes.  This says volumes about what a wimp I am, but the very special episodes scared me to death as a kid.  Like gave me nightmares.  As an adult, I really hate them because scaring people about issues 1. doesn’t work and 2. isn’t very nice.  Generally speaking, then, I steer clear of “issue books” because I don’t appreciate the singular focus and mishandling of issues like rape, drug abuse, alcoholism, child abuse, bullying, etc.  (That said, however, I do appreciate when those issues are more deftly woven into a story so that it transcends being just a very special episode and is more like a book where characters face realistic circumstances and have realistic experiences.)

Really, when I want to read about big issues, I want to read about more abstract things like life, death, love, and loss and that is why I picked anything by John Green as my answer for this question.  John Green has a really great way of discussing the big abstract issues that we all face without moralizing.  He encourages his readers to come up with their own answers to the big questions.  In Looking for Alaska, for example, the characters were asked to identify an important life question and to answer it and Pudge ends up writing an essay about the labyrinth of suffering.  For me, anyways, this was an open invitation to think about my own views about the meaning of life and the meaning of suffering and if I had been reading this in a group setting, this would have been a great launch-point for discussion.  That is how issue books should be written!

If you are a new John Green reader and interested in big issues I recommend you check out Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars first!

How do you feel about very special episode books?  What are your favorites?