John Green: a guide to the author and his novels

Teenagers have a new obsession. That’s not surprising, but this new figure is a far cry from Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus- it is the 36 year old John Green. Green is a triple threat, as he is an author, YouTuber, and educator. Recently, he has been named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People.

Green’s fame started with his YouTube channel with his brother, Hank Green, called the vlogbrothers, where the two leave video blogs addressed to each other. In these weekly vlogs, they cover anything from what’s going on in their lives, to answering questions from their fans, or explaining serious topics such as the crisis in Ukraine. Since then, the brothers have started 11 YouTube series in total, including Mental Floss and Crash Course, an educational channel about subjects such as US history and biology. John and Hank have garnered over 2 million subscribers on their vlogbrothers channel, and their dedicated fans are part of an online community called Nerdfighteria. This group has a gang sign inspired by Star Trek, and a slogan of DFTBA (Don’t Forget to be Awesome).

While John Green has been a YouTube presence for seven years now, he achieved mainstream success and fame through his young adult novels. His ability to connect with teenagers and realistically portray their life and thoughts are a part of what makes his coming-of-age books so successful. John Green novels are filled with profound thoughts, and make powerful statements about life and love. Despite his immense popularity, Green still seems to be extremely humble and down-to-earth. With one book already produced into a movie and another on the way, John Green’s books are the next big thing.

The Fault in Our Stars:

If you liked My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, you’d like The Fault in Our Stars.

The Fault in Our Stars is John Green’s most recent, and most famous book. It is a New York Times bestseller, and has sold millions of copies in many different languages. The main character is Hazel Lancaster, a teenage girl with terminal cancer. She was close to dying when she was younger, but was saved with a new cancer drug that keeps her alive, yet makes her weak, forcing her to rely on an oxygen tank.

Hazel lives a quiet life with her parents, filled with sleeping, eating, fighting cancer, and watching TV. She cannot seem to separate herself and her disease, as her whole life has been consumed with cancer. However, her life takes a turn when she meets Augustus Waters, a charming boy on remission at a Cancer Support Group. They become great friends who share their thoughts on the world around them and a love for books. Hazel finds herself falling for Augustus, but is concerned with hurting him, as her health is not stable. Regardless, they will both change each other forever.
The Fault in Our Stars is not a cliché cancer story or love story, and can’t be classified into just one of them. This novel is an honest and eye-opening portrayal of cancer kids, and helps readers understand the reality, not a glorified version. Not only does it portray a teenage cancer patient’s thoughts, but also how it affects their loved ones. Green writes from his experience at a hospital with young cancer patients, and his friendship with Esther Earl, a 16-year-old who died from thyroid cancer. Hazel and Augustus share an amazing romance, and show the simultaneous extraordinariness, and sometimes awkwardness, of a first love. This is a poignant and extremely moving masterpiece that is sure to generate tears.
The Fault in Our Stars has become a movie, and is coming out on June 6. It stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel and Ansel Elgort as Augustus. Many fans have been concerned about the transition from page to screen, but John Green’s love for the film is reassuring.

If you liked The Fault in Our Stars, you should read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Paper Towns:

If you like The Breakfast Club, you’d like Paper Towns.

Paper Towns is a classic John Green book in that the main character is a nerdy boy, Quentin Jacobsen whose life is changed by a beautiful girl, Margo Roth Spiegelman. They were childhood friends, but lost touch during high school. Despite this, Quentin has always harbored a crush for Margo. One night, Margo shows up at Quentin’s window with a quest, and they set off on an epic revenge adventure. Afterwards, Quentin and his friends must solve a mystery concerning Margo, and through his new experiences, he learns how to live. This insightful book makes a statement about the social structure in high school, and makes readers question the conformity in their life and the reasons behind their decisions. This book is going to become a movie, starring Nat Wolff as Quentin, and John Green will be writing the script.

If you liked Paper Towns, you should read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Looking for Alaska:

If you liked Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, you’d like Looking for Alaska. Looking for Alaska is probably the most successful John Green book after The Fault in Our Stars. The protagonist Miles Halter, soon nicknamed “Pudge”, starts going to a new boarding school, Culver Creek in order to “seek a Great Perhaps”. The boarding school is very prestigious and has a legacy of great pranks. At Culver Creek, Pudge meets a lot of people, including his roommate the Colonel, and an extraordinary but emotionally unstable girl named Alaska. Pudge has a fascination with famous people’s last words, and he and Alaska constantly contemplate the meaning of Simon Bolivar’s last mysterious words. Although Alaska does have a boyfriend, Pudge develops feelings for her. Alaska is greatly loved and admired at Culver Creek, but she has a broken past that heavily affects her actions and personality. At Culver Creek, Pudge does find his Great Perhaps, and grows as a person as he must learn how to cope with love, sorrow, and guilt. Through his new friendships and an appreciation for life and forgiveness, Pudge is able to move on. This book is another tear-jerker and life-changer, and is an amazing coming-of-age novel. It’s based on John Green’s boarding school experience, and many of the events in this book actually happened. If you’ve read this book, check out Green’s YouTube videos of his school that Culver Creek was based on.

If you liked Looking for Alaska, you should read The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp.

An Abundance of Katherines:

If you liked The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, you’d like An Abundance of Katherines.

An Abundance of Katherines is definitely a unique book. It features recent high school graduate and former prodigy Colin Singleton, who takes a road trip with his friend Hassan Harbish in order to get over his recent break-up. Colin has only dated girls named Katherine, although this may change when he meets Lindsay Lee Wells. Throughout the novel, Colin works on developing a mathematical theorem that would predict how two people would work out in a relationship. He creates this based on his past relationships with 18 different girls named Katherine. In the beginning of the novel, Colin is concerned with his intellectual abilities, as he wants to be a genius and different than everyone else. However, at the end, Colin is more content with being a normal person instead of wanting to be better than others. Although this book is good, it is one of the weaker novels of John Green, and pales in comparison to his others. If you only have time to read one book, your time will probably be better spent on one of his other novels. However, An Abundance of Katherines is the easiest read, and has a fun and nerdy feel to it.

If you liked An Abundance of Katherines, you should read Silent to the Bone by E.L. Konigsburg

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan:

If you liked Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, you’d like Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson was co-authored by John Green and David Levithan. Each author narrates their own character in alternating chapters, and although both are named Will Grayson, the two are very different. The first Will Grayson is written by John Green, and is a quiet boy with a larger-than-life gay best friend, Tiny Cooper who is basically Damian from Mean Girls. The other Will Grayson is a loner and has a troubled life, and doesn’t have anything that he really cares about. It is a coincidence that the two Will Graysons will meet each other, and this has a big impact on both of their lives. This is a very touching novel that details the impact that certain people can have on our lives, and many readers can relate to both Will Graysons. The characters are real and lovable, and honest.

If you liked Will Grayson, Will Grayson, you should read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Written by Michelle Lin

Michelle Lin is currently a senior at Mt. Carmel High School. She is a staff writer and the Business Manager for the MC SUN. Michelle enjoys eating, napping and shopping at Trader Joes.

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