When you think John Green, you think of Young Adult fiction and when you think of Young Adult fiction, you think of John Green. This Indianapolis born author has become a major part of modern young adult literature. Harsh critics everywhere praise this middle-aged man (yes, he’s actually as old as my dad) for creating stirring books about teenagers but there are some people like me who are not ready to bow down to John Green and his mighty prowess.
After four of John’s books-The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines (read in that order), I think I’m qualified enough to answer this question. Though I definitely don’t think of John Green as a genius, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that he makes me feel like committing genocide. I’m still completely anti-genocidal. But John Green’s books do make me want to bang my head on a desk repeatedly. Why?
John Green himself has admitted that his main characters tend to be ‘white washed’ while his supporting characters of other races do little more than act as sidekicks over here but that’s not even the most unforgivable part. What really gets my goat is the fact that all the characters are so interchangeable. They’re usually male (TFIOS is the sole exception) and on the brighter side of the spectrum (read, they’re smart cookies) but sometimes I feel like John’s trying too hard to make them sound smart. They lust unforgivably over a hot female friend. And they’re as straight-laced as they get, while they’re friends are decidedly…not. Cigarettes, under aged drinking, etc. etc. the protagonist is usually dragged into all of it by his friends. Which, if you think about it, is not really a healthy message. The sidekicks…ahem, I mean the supporting characters, exist for no reason except to tempt our lovable protagonist into becoming more ‘fun’ and to endure racial jokes. Another unhealthy message. The love interest just sits there looking pretty and shares a couple of witty and supposedly ‘profound’ lines with the protagonist (which must have taken them hours to think up). Yet another bad message. John Green has a formula and this is it. There are almost no deviations from this formula. For someone who claims to be pretty bad at maths, John sure does love his formulae.
Plot? What plot? Oh I’m sorry was the long car trip supposed to be the plot? They sit in a car. Crack a few lame jokes. The sidekicks need to pee…a lot. Oh, and somehow they all bond over it? Let me tell you something. Car trips are not as romantic as John Green makes them sound. 8 hours in a cramped car is enough to drive a saint to the devil. Screaming, tantrums, weird music turned up to unbearably loud levels, etc. If you’re lucky enough to do it in the middle of the night, the passengers sleep in awkward positions with cricks in their necks while the driver woozily stares towards the high way (day)dreaming of sleep. And when they get to their destination (or non- destination) they meet a bunch of people who are magical clones of them-just of the opposite gender.
One of my friends commented that John’s books are kind of pushy. They try to force you to think in one way and instantly condemn you if you don’t think the same way. It’s like the cliché clique in high school but worse because it’s a middle aged man who is advocating it all. It’s something remotely philosophical and deep wrapped up with excessive amounts of attitude and then shoved down your throat instead of being handed to you politely.
Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.
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.
At times, I felt like I wasn’t reading a book; I was listening to a supposedly philosophical sermon. Maybe I’m not-so-smart and maybe I hang out with people who are not-so-smart but I have never heard real teenagers sprout out these beautiful pearls of wisdom in quick succession. If I’m lucky, I say 3 wise things a day, not a conversation.
So wrapping it up, I know that a lot of people like John Green. And that’s great but his books are not really my cup of tea. I like more realistic, original characters, More realistic, wholesome plots and more realistic, down-to-earth dialogues. Basically I want my realistic fiction to be (you got it) realistic.