In Appreciation – John Green

In an attempt to give myself a few more days to polish off a novel (or two) to talk about, especially in light of the fact that I really shouldn’t post about yet another comic book, I’ve decided to make a series of posts about authors I really rather enjoy.

There’s a lot of authors I’ve come to enjoy over the years.  I mean, duh.  Of course.  But there’s a huge number of authors who probably aren’t going to ever be a part of the national discussion re: literature.

There’s also authors that I’ve come to appreciate recently that I feel haven’t been adequately represented in my blog.  One of those authors is John Green.

I first discovered John Green about two years ago, when my boss wouldn’t stop talking about him.  But, like a fool, I didn’t read him at that point.  Still, she insisted that he was a great author.  Oh and he had a vlog with his brother.  Oh and he always says cool things like, “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome!” or DFTBA, for short.

Then came The Fault In Our Stars.  In addition to the heavy accolades, much of the first edition was signed by the author, which was an exciting prospect for a collector such as myself.  But, like a fool, I didn’t start reading John Green then, either.

A month after The Fault In Our Stars was released, when I had caught up on all my backlist, I wasn’t re-reading Sandman for the umpteenth time, and I was starved for something to read…  It was time for John Green.  I started with Paper Towns and read all but the last thirty pages in a single evening.

I was hooked!

But I resolved myself to not reading all his books as once.  I read The Fault In Our Stars, finally, in July, and stumbled on Looking For Alaska at the library in September. Finally, I bought the whole damn box set of John Green and finished An Abundance of Katherines and now I’ve completely caught up (well, excluding Let It Snow and Will Grayson, Will Grayson… but I’m at least done with everything that John Green wrote alone).

It isn’t hard for me to figure out why I like John Green so much.  It isn’t just that his dialogue is funny and clever (though it is).  It isn’t just the plots he writes that fit together so wonderfully (though they do).

I’ve said in previous posts that I enjoy when a writer is able to transport me back to my awkward, uncomfortable high school years… and John Green does this very well.  Most of his characters are socially awkward, slightly-to-very geeky, and uncommonly verbose and clever.

I was two of these things in high school.  Try to guess the two!

John Green’s characters remind me of the times during high school that I’d either a) remember forever or b) never remember.  Either way, I appreciate his insight into the psyche of teenagers… even if they’re often too clever for their own good.

Seriously, they’re incredibly funny, verbose, and well-read.  No teenager (maybe with few exceptions) has ever spoken like the teens in a John Green novel… yet they seem so honest, that I can believe they existed somewhere… just probably not in my high school.

And you know how I love lists!  So I’m going to do a quick round-up of John Green’s books… Here we go!

4. An Abundance of Katherines

This book is freshest in my mind, as I just finished it.  It stars a prodigy named Colin and a semi-strict Muslim named Hassan. Our two heroes go on a road trip (definitely a bit of a plot device in John Green books) and end up in the town of Gutshot, TN, a rural town claiming to be the burial site of Archduke Ferdinand.

The cause of this road trip to the middle of nowhere?  A broken heart, of course!  Colin is attempting to get over being dumped by yet another Katherine.  The nineteenth Katherine he has dated up to this point in his life, in fact.

Colin spends most of the novel attempting to write a theorem to predict how a relationship will end, which he ends up developing by the end of the book.  Does it work?  You’ll just have to read it and find out.

I will say that this is my least favorite novel.  It has the endearingly awkward characters and funny prose that I enjoy… but the plot is almost entirely predictable.  There’s a couple of surprises along the way, but the novel plays out much as I expected through-out, unlike my third pick…

3. Paper Towns

I already wrote a long-form review of Paper Towns almost a year ago, so I won’t be overly descriptive here.

This book was my first of John Green’s and the best part of it to me was just how unpredictable it was.  Margo’s dead!  No she isn’t! Maybe she is?  Maybe not? I JUST DON’T KNOW!

And that was great.  I’ll be sure to re-read this in the coming year.

2. The Fault In Our Stars

This book should, by all rights, be number 1.

But it isn’t.  And I don’t have a particularly good reason.  If you ask me in a week, maybe I’ll have reconsidered and switched the two.  But for now, The Fault In Our Stars just barely gets edged out by Looking For Alaska.

The book is just your typical love story… boy meets girl (at a cancer survivor meeting for teens), boy and girl bond over reading, boy and girl fall in love…

You know.  That old chestnut.

With alternating humor and sadness, John Green tells the story of Hazel and Augustus (Gus) and their experience with young love.  I was skeptical… I mean, kids with cancer?  Come on!  But Green’s talent allows him to tell a story without being too maudlin, or saccharine.

A touching, wonderful tale that also includes a number of great allusions to much of the poetry I loved when I was younger.  In a week’s time, this could be number one again.

1. Looking For Alaska

The top two was a big debate for me.  This could easily have been The Fault In Our Stars. By all rights, it probably should be.  But there’s something about this story that speaks to me on a deeper level than The Fault In Our Stars.

In this story, Miles “Pudge” Halter is sent from his relatively normal high school in Florida, to Culver Creek Prep School in Alabama.  He rooms with a guy named Chip who is nicknamed “The Colonel” and finds himself inextricably infatuated with a young woman named Alaska Young.

The book has two sections: Before and After.  Without delving into spoilers… Green really blindsides you with the “after” portion.  He builds up what you think it’ll be and then… BAM! Unexpected, heartbreaking, and it comes off without a hitch.

After this post, I may do another “In Appreciation” post… but by then I may also have finished either Fobbit, That’s Not A Feeling, or Boy Meets Boy.  Who knows? Maybe I’ll even get into Matt Fraction’s entirely too great Invincible Iron Man.  Seriously, best superhero comic I’ve read in the last year (sorry Ultimate Spider-Man!).

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4 thoughts on “In Appreciation – John Green

  1. It’s funny that I saw this blog post on my Facebook news feed today — I JUST (as in last night) read Paper Towns for my Young Adult Literature class. I loved it! I will definitely be reading more John Green in the future. (Also, as a future librarian, I promise to put this book in the hands of teenagers, though I probably won’t punch out other books to do it!) Despite not having ever been an 18 year old boy, I could really relate to Q as a normal, well-adjusted teenager. I could also relate to his (and Margo’s) feelings of how good it feels to leave a town, a school — a life — and not look back.

    (On a side note, I’m new to wordpress and haven’t done anything with it yet, so if you go to my blog, all you’ll see is the standard “Welcome to WordPress” message. I’m lazy, so it will probably be like that for a while).

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