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Top 5 Things We Love About John Green September 21, 2011

Posted by ccbooks in Analysis.
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There isn’t much that I can gloat to Ana about. She beats me in musical knowledge, writing ability and many other things. However, I can brag that once upon a time, I got to meet and talk to John Green. When he had just won the Printz award for his debut, Looking for Alaska, Green spoke to a book club at our local library and I happened to be home from college that weekend. For a couple of hours, Green talked to me, my brother and a bunch of 8th grade girls about his education, books and the editing process. He even called his editor and we tried to convince her that the test cover of his next book An Abundance of Katherines looked like a Gossip Girl novel (the book cover didn’t end up changing but Green TOTALLY agreed with us). Now, of course, Green is a big name author, with thousands of Twitter followers, fans with a fun name (nerdfighters) and best selling books on Amazon that haven’t even been published yet. But we always knew he was amazing. So here, we list our Top Five Things We Love About John Green.

5. Pre-occupation (of both him and his characters) with trivia: Most of John Green’s characters have a fascination with some kind of trivia. For Colin (An Abundance of Katherines), it’s anagrams. For Miles (Looking For Alaska), it’s famous last words. For Quentin (Paper Towns), it’s Walt Whitman. For John Green himself, it’s conjoined twins. The quirkiness of this trivia adds to the characters and makes the reader sympathize with them.

4. Realistic Dialogue: As a YA author, John Green captures the way teenagers speak, by neither trivializing their dialogue, nor over-exaggerating their use of swear words and slang. It is a mark of how true to life his character’s conversations are that I didn’t even notice much of the profanity in Will Grayson, Will Grayson until another teacher pointed it out to me.

3. Gorgeous prose (sometimes): Most of Green’s protagonists like to speak in long, complicated monologues, at least some of the time. This can occasionally get boring, but sometimes he manages to distill the book’s themes and attitudes brilliantly and still make it sound like something the character would actually say or write. A prime example is the end of Looking for Alaska where Pudge writes in his final essay “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.”

2. Depiction of journeys (literal and emotional): In Looking for Alaska, Pudge grows and changes over the course of a school year. In Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns, Colin and Quentin each go on extended road trips in search of ideal women. In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Will gradually comes to terms with who he is as a friend and a person. Each of Green’s protagonists has changed by the end of his book, and that’s one reason they are so exciting to read about.

1. Friendships that shouldn’t work, but somehow do: Friendships are a huge driving force in YA lit. But it’s no fun to read about friends who either a. act like you want them to all the time or b. are the kind of people you expect to be your friend. Green creates some absolutely hilarious pairs or groups of friends in his novels, including Tiny Cooper and Will Grayson, Ben, Radar and Quentin, and of course, The Colonel, Pudge and the ever-fascinating Alaska. So we will end with a short illustration of friendship, from An Abundance of Katherines.

“Look,” Hassan said. “This is my ninth day at a school in my entire life and yet somehow I have already grasped what you can and cannot say. And you cannot say anything about your own sphincter.”

“It’s part of your eye, ” Colin said defensively. “I was being clever.”

“Listen, dude. You gotta know your audience. That bit would kill at an ophthalmologist convention, but in calculus class, everybody’s just wondering how the hell you got an eyelash there.”

And so they were friends.

Looking back over this, each of these paragraphs is quite a bit shorter than our last ‘5 Things We Love’ post. John Green, we promise we love you as much as Melina Marchetta. We’re just getting better at being a bit more succinct with this whole blogging thing.

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