The reasons why I love John Green could fill many a blog post. He’s a talented writer who chooses to work in the young adult genre. His books are highly intelligent and full of literary and historical references — no talking down to teenagers here. He clearly loves and respects his wife. In college he was an English and religion double-major, and as scholars of Courtney lore know, religion is the one major that briefly tempted me to abandon English.
But I admire him most for the way he uses technology to connect with fans. As previously mentioned, he does a series of video blogs with his brother Hank. However, the brothers don’t just use the videos as a way to promote their respective careers. The videos have served as a rallying point for young people who share John and Hank’s passion for books, the environment, and general nerdiness. He proves that a novelist can do so much more than just, you know, write novels for publication. They can be a catalyst for positive change in the world! And isn’t that an exciting possibility?
I read my first John Green novel, An Abundance of Katherines, this fall. Naturally his other two books were on my Christmas list. Because I’m rather neurotic about such things, some planning had to take place before I could dive into my small stack of new books. I wanted to spread out the John Green love, maybe read one of the books and then a different author in between to cleanse my palette. After all, I wanted to give each book a fair shake.
Then I completely caved. I started with Looking for Alaska because it was John’s first novel, and then read Paper Towns immediately afterward. Winter break turned into an utter John Green binge. I don’t think either book suffered too harshly from the close proximity to each other. Any author has common threads that run through his or her body of work. To me that has the potential make reading more, not less exciting.
For instance, John Green is interested in a common problem of personhood: accepting that other people are as real and complex as you. His main character tends to put someone, usually a girl, on a pedestal, imagining her as an adventure or a mystery or an answer. It shouldn’t be too big of a spoiler when I tell you that she is invariably human. But since this is a universal and complex problem, he could easily spend his entire career grappling with it and still have more to say.
My friend Gabe once told me that first novels are the most autobiographical. I have no other source to cite on that, but it seemed reasonable to me. It certainly seemed to be the case for John Green. As he himself will tell you, Looking for Alaska is about a boy from Florida who goes to a boarding school in Alabama and is obsessed with the last words of famous people. Word for word, this could also describe the life of young John Green. Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines are less obvious in their autobiographical points, but any Vlogbrothers aficionado (that would be me) can recognize places where art is imitating life. And at least for me, as an English major and writer, that kind of insider knowledge is fascinating.
I should mention that John Green’s latest novel was released last Tuesday. It’s called The Fault in Our Stars, and my need to possess it grows ever stronger. I’m not just being a fangirl here, although admittedly that’s part of it. John Green is currently my favorite example of what being a young adult novelist can mean. Naturally I have to know what comes next!