Book Review: An Abundance of John Green

I’ll start by saying I did not just recently discover John Green. I’d known about him since his guest appearances on PotterCast (going back to around 2008? 2009?), the NerdFighters, and The Fault in Our Stars, which I read and reviewed in 2013. I’d just never kept up with his other works. 

I’m not exactly sure what made me pick up Turtles All the Way Down last month. I think maybe I was just in the mood for something somber (read: not another cutesy urban fantasy romance). Once I’d finished the book, I wanted more. Not necessarily more of those particular characters or of that particular story, but just more of John Green. His voice.

So, I started reading Paper Towns. I ended up staying up all night to finish Paper Towns. I HAD to see what would happen next. While the ending was a little anticlimactic, I just loved how Green took the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, chased it all the way into a corner, and then busted it. The book said something. And that voice…I cannot get over the voice of his writing, the quirky, random, poetic voices of his characters. 

Next, I read Looking For Alaska, his first published work. It’s basically the same story as Paper Towns, but with a grimmer outcome for our MPDG, one that never gives her a chance to rise above her trope. There’s almost something Poe-esque in Green’s romances, how the protagonist would rather love his Dream Girl from a distance, in love with his romantic idealizing of her more than he is actually capable of loving her as a real person. In all 3 cases — from Turtles to Towns to Alaska — the mystery driving the stories, coupled with the captivating narration, kept me turning the pages. 

Finally, I concluded my Green binge with Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-authored by David Levithan. This was a slower read for me, as it was more character-driven without the same sense of dread or mystery evoked by the other 3 books. I don’t know if it was Levithan’s touch that made this book different, but it dragged quite a bit, and the ending…well, I just don’t know about that ending. The story ended up being about someone who is distinctly not one of the Will Graysons. I will say, I admired how the chapters alternated between each Will’s POV and how different they were, so that you never got confused between them. Also, the deep examination of depression, anxiety, and mental health that most if not all of Green’s books include was present in this title, as well. 

Are John Green’s books pretentious? Are all of the characters – from the precocious yet socially awkward MC, his/her quirky love interest, to the obscenely energetic, verbose best friend – copied from the same exact formula? Do his teen characters talk like no actual teenagers talk? Yes, yes, and yes. Did any of that make me love these books any less? Heck no.

John Green has been elevated to my favorite author status. I even ordered print copies of Paper Towns & Alaska for my shelf, because they’re both brilliant and deserve to be gawked at daily from my desk. At this point, I plan to read anything he publishes in the future…so long as it’s written in first-person and is fiction. 😉 

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