As a teenage girl who frequents Tumblr and YouTube like I am paid to do so, it’s inevitable that I would be swamped with hazy nature photos overlayed with supposedly deep and meaningful quotes. Prominently among these are the one and only John Green; the king of the coming-of-age novels of our generation. Whilst this title is all good and well, do they really live up to the hype?
The Fault In Our Stars
This was the first book I read by John Green, soon after it was published in 2012, and before it was turned into a quote dictionary for pale indie bloggers. Telling the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, TFIOS manages to capture the thought process of teens and makes a pretty hard to imagine situation actually quite relevant to the reader. Which is pretty impressive, especially having been written by a thirty-something-year-old father of two. It has the incredible ability to wrap its audience around its little finger and take them on an emotional rollercoaster, before dumping them back down into reality with little ability to recover. I’ll admit it- I cried.
Looking For Alaska
The second book by John Green that I read was Looking for Alaska, which I immediately fell in love with. He has this incredible ability to make the reader find a piece of themselves inside every character; whether it be weedy, biography-obsessed Miles Halter, or crazy, unpredictable, beautiful Alaska Young. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t read it, but it’s one of those conclusions that leaves you screaming inside with the injustice of it. Moreover, I can’t help but see a modernised likeness to Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye) in Miles that emphasises the idea that John Green has done for our generation what Salinger became an icon for. Is it up to the same standard? That’s up to you to decide for yourself.
An Abundance of Katherines
As a self-confessed math geek, I’ll admit that this book, and the incredibly poignantly presented character of Colin, intrigued me on an intellectual level. However, I must say that I found it hard at times to move past the completely unrealistic and almost pre-teen story line; including a quest for more Katherines for Colin to date and a chart which claims to predict the future of any relationship based on several factors of the personalities of the two people. Although probably my least favourite of his novels, it is an entertaining read and once again, John displays his ability to create characters to whom everyone can relate. I mean, aren’t we all just searching for our own “Eureka moment”?
Ever wished that one night you’ll hear the patter of pebbles on your bedroom window and look out to see a silhouette in the night, a voice promising excitement and adventure? Well I know I certainly have, and so did Quentin Jacobsen- although, fortunately, in his case he gets his wish in the form of thrill-seeking yet beautifully damaged Margo Roth Spiegelman. Their relationship has many similar features of that of Alaska and Miles, with the ending being ultimately less upsetting, but in other ways a whole lot more tragic. There are many beautiful moments in this book that caught my breath and John once again displays his ability to play on the reader’s heartstrings.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
This is an unlikely story of two boys- very different yet oddly similar in ways which go further than just their names. I’m still completely on the fence about whether I liked this book; in some ways I thought it was brilliantly written and I loved the idea that the dual-author aspect made each chapter like a reaction to the previous one. I also liked some of the characters, in particular the Will Grayson who likes to only write in non capitals, which I think was actually David Leuithan’s part. I wouldn’t count is as one of my favourites, but as a Christmas present it was definitely an enjoyable read.
So are they worth the hype? It’s hard to say really; whilst people can criticise them all they like and say that the writing itself isn’t the best quality, no one can say that they don’t have a place in the literary world. The numerous awards his books have won are testament to the huge audience which they captivate and the fact that TFIOS is being made into a movie is proof that these kind of books sell. As long as you don’t try and compare John to the likes of Salinger and Fitzgerald, and just accept that he is at the forefront of a new wave of teen writers, then he fares pretty well. Plus, he doesn’t half know how to turn people of all ages into blubbering idiots.