Sunday, June 13, 2010

Because John Green is a Genius

So at school, I met another writing major named Sarah. Sarah is a Nerdfighter - specifically a "person who is made out of awesome instead of blood and organs and things," and unspecifically part of an internet community started by John Green and his brother Hank. Sarah told me some pretty cool things about Nerdfighting and about John Green's books. I had heard of Looking for Alaska and wanted to read it because I heard it was pretty good.

Cue summer. As I was finishing up Letters to Oliver, I took breaks/procrastinated by watching John and Hank's vlogbrothers on YouTube. Yes, all 678 of them. (I obsess over things. Whoops.)

I have also read all four of John Green's books, and own two of them. So I can say two things with extreme confidence: one, that I am now a bona fide Nerdfighter, and two, that John Green is an amazingly talented writer.

Looking for Alaska, which of course has nothing to do with the state, is a really powerful book. It is raw and honest, both in an emotional sense and in a sense of the action on the page. It absolutely feels real, which is one of the reasons it is so heartwrenching. It is broken into a "before" and an "after," and because I knew that, and because of the title and the summary, I knew exactly what that before and after were leading up to. But really, that didn't matter. The book still made me cry, and while I will admit that I cry like a small child at movies and Broadway shows, it usually takes a lot in a book to make me cry. But John Green has this amazing talent for blending the poetic with the starkly realistic, something I'll talk more about later.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is his most recent book, but I'm going to talk about it now because I'm going in order of how much I liked them. Not that I disliked either Looking for Alaska or Will Grayson, Will Grayson - they were both great; I just liked his other two a little bit more. WG,WG tells the story of two characters with the same name who meet up and whose lives become intertwined. This is a really good example of the other thing I love so much about John Green - his quirky characters. His characters always seem to have at least one defining quirk. Pudge in Looking for Alaska memorizes famous people's last words; Colin in An Abundance of Katherines loves anagramming; Q in Paper Towns is always nervous. John's Will Grayson has rules for life and likes keeping himself perpetually average. His side characters are all well rounded as well - Tiny Cooper, for example, is just hilarious, and I can absolutely imagine a person like that. WG, WG is a particularly good example of John Green's amazing characterization because it is cowritten by David Levithan, and his chapters, possibly because of the IM-ing style, were not as captivating. We're so much in the head of the all-lowercase and rather emo will grayson that none of the other characters pop at all, and don't really catch my sympathy. Tiny Cooper can be annoying as all hell, but I still want to give him a hug; on the other hand, I just want to punch Maura in the face.

An Abundance of Katherines
is much more lighthearted than anything else he's written, and I really want to give Colin a hug. This book was quirky and fun, but it didn't throw aside the bigger issues that John Green likes to make us think about - he just looked at them from a different angle. Also, this book has footnotes. Humorous footnotes are some of my favorite things ever, and there are lots of them in this one. And because Colin is a former child prodigy, you learn a lot of interesting things from it as well - like why the shower curtain blows into the shower, and not out. And that Tesla liked pigeons. I think the only problem I had with this book was the ending - it felt a little bit "and the moral of the story is" to me, but it made sense within the book, I guess, as the prologue was like that as well. All in all, however, this was fun and I enjoyed it very much.

Paper Towns
, however, might just be my new favorite book. It is absolutely, blow-your-mind amazing. Remember when I said that he's got this amazing talent for blending the poetic and the realistic? Well, if he did that well in his first book, in Paper Towns, his third, he has absolutely perfected the technique. I suppose it helps that the book has an awful lot to do with Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," but still. The book is all about misimagining other people, which everyone does, all the time. And Q explains it perfectly.

When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out. -- Paper Towns, pg 302

Not only is the plot thrilling and the prose absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, the ending - which is possibly the hardest part about writing fiction, as it is inherently fake; the only way things end in real life is with death - is PERFECT. Obviously I can't tell you why, but it is bittersweet and beautiful and just absolutely PERFECT.

I'll stop fangirling now and will instead implore you to go read some John Green books - especially Paper Towns. He is amazing, and you won't regret it.


Btw - John reading the prologue of Paper Towns.

1 comment:

  1. Hey fellow Caitlin, I gave you an award on my blog for being so awesome :)