John Green is universally known for his heart-wrenching and eloquent novels, and, like many others, I am a fan of his work. I find his novels to be an easy and often romantic read with an element of adventure recognised across all of his works. Interestingly though, I find Green’s collaborations with other authors capture my attention more than his own, individual work. The novels I will be exploring in this blog post are Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Looking for Alaska, Let It Snow, The Fault in Our Stars, and Paper Towns.
~will contain spoilers~
5). Paper Towns
For me personally, Paper Towns is my least favourite of John Green’s books. This is primarily because the plot line did not really interest me. I found the beginning section to be the best part of the novel, with Quentin and Margo’s adventures taking place. However, once the chase of Margo begins and the clues of her whereabouts are discovered, I found it difficult to concentrate and visualise what was occurring between Quentin and his friends as they piece together the information. This is where the film helped. In this case, I found that the film version was just as good as, or possibly even better, than the novel. I thought Nat Wolff (who played Quentin) and Cara Delevingne (who played Margo) performed a very close representation of what the book characters are like, both in characteristics and appearances. They had such on screen chemistry that it made me endear to them more than what I felt when I read the book. Despite preferring the film, the book did still have very entertaining and captivating moments. For example, a favourite segment from the book of mine is the description of Radar’s parent’s black Santa collection, which holds the title for the largest collection of black Santa’s in the world. It was such an unexpected and humorous moment that it made me laugh out loud. I also very much enjoyed the banter and relationship between Quentin, Radar and Ben. They are very close and have a non judgemental relationship, but they are also not afraid to call each other out if they’ve messed up. In fact, one of my favourite lines of the novel comes from Radar, who is scolding Quentin for complaining about Ben:
“You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves. I mean, I could hate you for being massively unpunctual and for never being interested in anything other than Margo Roth Spiegelman, and for, like, never asking me about how it’s going with my girlfriend – but I don’t give a shit, man, because you’re you. My parents have a shit ton of black Santas, but that’s okay. They’re them. I’m too obsessed with a reference website to answer my phone sometimes when my friends call, or my girlfriend. That’s okay, too. That’s me. You like me anyway. And I like you. You’re funny, and you’re smart, and you may show up late, but you always show up eventually.”
4). The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars is undoubtedly one of John Green’s most loved and well known novels. Rightfully so, it is a good book. However, despite this, I still cannot help but cringe at some of the more corny lines in the book. Fascinatingly, I didn’t even realise the amount of over-the-top lines until they were said on screen. Once I watched the film, I could not read the book in the same way. For example, one of the first interactions between Hazel and Augustus goes as follows.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
August half smiled. “Because you’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence.”
This seems a little bit of an unrealistic exchange to say it is the first day they met. However, I think this was the approach that Green was angling for. After all, the couple have to meet, fall in love, then suffer through relapses of cancer all in 313 pages. Therefore the romantic aspect of the story must start fairly quickly. Despite the fast pace of the book, it also contains a lot of relatable moments. When Hazel is carrying her phone round with her, just in case Augustus calls, this is a more accurate representation of the start of teen relationships. The undeniable eloquence and articulation of the characters makes the novel a very entertaining and engaging read, as the reader becomes absorbed into their witty conversations. An example of this kind of playful exchange is when Hazel and Augustus are thinking of ideas for their headline, to sell Hazel’s old swing set. Hazel suggests, “Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing Set Seeks Butts of Small Children.” The kind of friendly, lively relationships tends to be a reoccurring theme throughout Green’s books, which is one of the main factors why I enjoy them so much. Of course, since The Fault in Our Stars is a John Green novel, it includes a lot of heart-wrenching moments that more likely than not produces an emotional response within the reader. At least, it did for me. This physical response is another part of why I find his books so enjoyable. If I felt nothing, then I feel reading it would be a waste of time.
3). Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the first of Green’s novels that I read, or perhaps that is written, that includes and partly focuses on same-sex relationships. This is a refreshing change from the standard boy meets girl pattern that runs throughout his work. This novel is only half written by Green, which supports the earlier statement that I prefer his works that are collaborated on with other authors. In this case, he has collaborated with David Levithan. I adore Levithan’s writing style, and I found his half of the narrative more compelling than Green’s, particularly through the use of a strong, isolated character being at the centre of the story. Levithan’s narrative is as follows: a lonely, gay high school pupil, Will Grayson 1, finds nothing but darkness in everything except Isaac, his love interest who he finds online. Will plans to meet Isaac in real life, but upon realizing once Isaac doesn’t show up that he is a fraud, he instead meets Will Grayson 2, who has already been introduced as a slightly more outgoing person, yet still an outsider, and average in ability and characterization. From the moment they meet, they become important parts in each other’s lives, despite rarely speaking directly to each other. This is mainly due to Will Grayson 1’s developing relationship with Will Grayson 2’s gay friend, Tiny. I find Tiny to be an intriguing character. On the surface it seems he only possesses qualities associated with stereotypical gay characters: extreme flamboyance, and a passion for theatre and arts. But this is not all there is to Tiny. He’s deeply sensitive, with a very caring nature, and is extremely intelligent. This is how I knew that he and Will Grayson 1 were not good for each other: Will is far too broken and insecure about his sense of self for Tiny, who although still has his insecurities, has the kind of confidence that can be detected from miles away.
2). Looking for Alaska
Looking for Alaska embodies everything that a John Green book stands for. It contains deep, meaningful friendships, unrequited love, and a sense of morality that is both portrayed as good and bad. Miles (renamed Pudge by his friends), is the protagonist and has the standard personality traits found in the male protagonists in Green’s books: average in looks, mediocre in brains, and hopelessly in love with a girl. Similar characteristics are also found in Quentin and Will Grayson (2). For this reason, I did not especially favor the character of Miles, despite liking him. Alaska, the girl Miles falls in love with, also adheres to the typical characteristics of the unobtainable girl. She is mysterious and has been turned guarded and reckless by her past, yet has an enchanting presence that draws other people to her. She is also loved by all, but loves few back. This likens her to Margo, from Paper Towns. The focus on the friendship group in the novel is refreshing, rather than just the relationship between Miles and Alaska. I found the character of The Colonel especially intriguing. Coming from a poor background, he values everything he has, including his friends. This loyalty towards them makes The Colonel endearing to me, but he never wants any pity or sympathy because of his home situation. This is reflected in his straight-talking ways and refusal to be controlled by other people. He is also wickedly smart, and invents most of the schemes and pranks he and his friends take part in. Takumi, another important member of the friendship group, is also an interesting character. A critique I have of the novel is that there is a lack of exploration in depth of Takumi’s character. This would both make it more of a complex read in terms of Alaska’s unfortunate death, as the reader can identify more and understand his side of the story. It would also just give the reader a different, unique character to focus on, and one of Japanese heritage rather than American. Overall, I found this novel to be a fun filled journey, with the unexpected plot twist that is Alaska’s death towards the end. Miles’ loss and grief furthers his character development and makes him a more insightful person than he was at the beginning of the novel, due to his experiences.
1). Let It Snow
From all of the John Green novels I have read, Let It Snow is by far my favourite. Again, this novel was co-written by other authors: Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. This novel is split up into three different stories, however, like Will Grayson, Will Grayson, they are intertwined and eventually every character from all three stories meet at the end of the last story. The novel begins with ‘The Jubilee Express’, Johnson’s story. This follows a girl named Jubilee (nicknamed Julie) who gets stuck on a train during a snowstorm and meets Stuart, who insists that she comes to his house to be more comfortable and get out of the snow. Jubilee is sceptical but agrees. Jubilee is everything I love in a character; she’s quirky, quick witted, and often finds herself in awkward and uncomfortable situations. At the beginning of her story, she describes her boyfriend Noah, who is said to be practically perfect. Immediately, I could tell that this was not a good match for Julie. She is far too imperfect for him, but so much more real. This is where Stuart’s appearance comes into use. He is the one who makes Julie see the reality of her situation with Stuart, and since he has only known her for an hour at the most, it is clear that he is insightful and a good reader of situations. Through his own heartache, he is able to help Julie. When reading this story, the one thing I willed to happen more than anything was for Julie and Stuart to get together. When it did, the moment was so joyful and full of passion and emotions that it truly embodied the Christmas spirit. After all, it is a book designed for the Christmas holiday. The next story is ‘A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle’, written by Green. This story follows the traditional pattern: a regular guy (Tobin) starts to fall for a girl (Angie, ‘the Duke’) who has something more unique about her. Following on the same idea of adventure found in ‘The Jubilee Express’, this story also involves the concept of a journey, both physically and emotionally. In this case, the journey makes Tobin realise that he has feelings for the Duke. As always with John Green stories, the language use is very intense and meaningful. However, this is not just used to express their relationship; it is also used to communicate other social issues such as sexism. The last story of the series is ‘The Patron Saint of Pigs’. This focuses on a girl named Addie who has just recently broken up with her boyfriend, Jeb. Her heartache is conveyed through her reckless actions: e.g. cutting and dyeing her hair pink and isolating herself from others. This tale is very moralistic, and relays the message to not be conceited and appreciate what you have, when you have it. Again, there is adventure, this time in the form of rescuing teacup piglets. Although this is my least favourite story in the trilogy I really enjoyed the character development in Addie, as well as the more sideline characters, such as the pet store clerk.
THANK YOU FOR READING!