I didn't buy much into "The Fault in Our Stars" and I was driven crazy by his AP World review videos all last year. I wrestled with my feelings about John Green for a while, but I've finally come to a conclusion.
I'll start again.
We were forced to watch these somewhat obnoxious, but incredibly well done AP World review videos last year called, Crash Course. Mostly, I was driven crazy by the videos...outwardly. Internally, they helped. They drew connections that I was simply not getting in the class. And yeah. Sometimes they were funny and clever. But I spent so much time being so mad about that class that I diverted some of my anger about my teacher, towards innocent John Green.
I hadn't read any of John Green's books before this summer, but I had had the intention of reading some for about three summers. At first, I thought it coincidental that the author and our crash course host had the same name. And then I put it together. Meanwhile, I was so angry, unjustly, that I was in denial that they could be the same. I don't want this aggravating man to write my books and tell me how much better he is then me! I tried to continue on ignorantly blissful until my friend confirmed what I'd suspected for awhile "did y'know that that guy in the AP videos wrote those books!? Whoa!" Noooooo. It reminded me of how Jane felt in 27 Dresses when she found out that Kevin was Doyle "I feel like I found out my favorite love song was written about a sandwich."
School ended. I didn't have to endure anymore Crash Course then I wanted and I could read whatever books I felt compelled to read. I had actually bought "Looking for Alaska" the previous summer, but had never had time to read it. I also had "The Fault in Our Stars" on my literary wish list, but had not acquired a copy to indulge in yet.
I figured I ought to finally give it a go. I ran out of books (I brought 3) on choir tour and borrowed a friend's copy of "The Fault in Our Stars" (mainly with the intention of being able to read it before the movie came out-- mission accomplished btws). I can't say that I loved this book and I actually know exactly why.
- So many dang expectations. Everyone wanted me to like this book. Everyone told me how it melted their hearts and showed them what love is and made them cry for hours and so on and on. Too many expectations.
- I was still very skeptical, judgmental, and downright weirded out by John Green. I had understood him as someone in such a different setting that it kind of unnerved me to know that he wrote a story for teenagers. About teenagers. About teenagers with terminal diseases. About teenagers who 'fall in love'. No. That was all too unlike the person I believed him to be. That was way too sentimental to be the same person who ragged on about merchants of Southeast Asia all year.
- There was nothing redeeming about the characters. I wanted to like this book so badly. I really did. However, to me there was not enough character development to make me care whatever the heck happened to the protagonists. Or the antagonist. Or the lack thereof. I never once felt emotionally invested in any of the characters which makes for a rather static but easy read. Yes, Augustus Waters was charming at some points, but for the most part my reaction was "oh please!" Everything happened too quickly and the plot thickened before it was ripe.
- I hardly consider myself a typical teenage girl. I've been called "stuck up" and "snotty" before, but I seriously find it difficult to connect with teenage girls. What interests them I normally steer clear of and/or see right through. ie Never liked Justin Bieber and do not own a crop top. I digress, with all of these teenage girls aggressively telling me how much I'd love the book, I put up a wall. It felt like they were telling me that they knew me better then I knew myself and that I was weak and couldn't not fall in love with something and be like everyone else. Of course, it probably meant something more like "OMG YA fiction! My experiance! Me! Me! Me!" (of course, not everyone is like this, but that was the general atmosphere I was in for preparing myself to read this book). But still. It was like a challenge to not fall under the book spell. So I didn't.
- I was not in an atmosphere, as aforementioned, where I felt vulnerable enough to read as I wished. I'm one of those people who is eager to connect to a story in all the ways that I can. In this case, I could not. I like to read alone where I can cry if I want or re-read a sentence as many times as I like until it looses its magic. Instead, while reading on a bus surrounded by middle schoolers and high schoolers from church choir, I felt rushed and stoic. I wouldn't let myself fall for the book as I might have if I read it alone; although, everything mentioned above still would have stood and I don't think it's fair to blame my dislike and disinterest solely on this fifth point.
All in all, in case you didn't already get it, I did not care for "The Fault in Our Stars". Yes it was an easy read. Yes I'm glad I read it (I'd been meaning to for years, literally). But still, it wasn't for me.
I read many more books from many different authors that I did not have ridiculous reservations about and finally, with only two books left in my personal reading stack, picked up my second attempt at a John Green novel.
I tore though "Looking for Alaska" in a mere 24 hours. It was smart and quirky. I loved it. It made me ponder different big questions while chortling about the characters' strong personalities. The main girl, Alaska, was my classic favourite kind of girl. She was a total b****. She reminded me of why I love Summer Finn and why I wish I was that girl at times. Or at least, why it's important to have qualities like those girls. Don't get excited, there is nothing in that book or in that movie that will explicitly explain my like of these people, it's all personal opinion. You may hate these people. That's totally fine. That really is not the point of all that I'm trying to express though.
Here. Take these quotes from the novel as a preview into the work:
"Jesus, I'm not going to be one of those people who sits around talking about what they're going to do. I'm just going to do it. Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia."
" 'Sometimes I don't get you,' I said.
She didn't even glance at me. She just smiled toward the television and said, 'You never get me. That's the whole point.' "
DON'T YOU JUST WANT TO BE THAT GIRL!? yup.
I was eager to like this book because I really did want to know why everyone loved John Green so much. I wanted to be a part of that. It felt like something I shouldn't miss and I found it. I found it with "Looking for Alaska".
This book showcased John Green's humor from cover to cover but it also seemed to reveal deeper personal truths about him. I always wonder what percentage of fiction is actually truth, or personal beliefs, or regrets lived out a different way. I noticed that religion and the question of eternity and death were vital to both of his stories that I had read. I wondered what of that was fiction. When I completed "Looking for Alaska" and I was inevitably left in that empty state you enter when you finish a novel, I decided to explore John Green's tumblr and twitter (except for I didn't really look at his twitter at all). A Q&A on his tumblr about a girl who struggled with the finding peace and answers to the eternity/death question mentioned how she had listened to his "Ear Biscuit" which prompted her to ask him a somewhat faith related question. Since I was curious about his peace with the question, I Googled and found the "Ear Biscuit" interview.
This interview sealed the deal for me. This interview displayed how much head AND heart the author has. He was so smart and real and humble. He was just fascinating and I officially hopped on the John Green Bandwagon which led me to write this post which, in part I wanted to clear the air that is so one sided between me and John Green, and also in part so that you can learn about a cool human we get to share this earth with, in case you didn't already know or weren't completely sold like I wasn't.
I strongly recommend you put aside time to listen to his interview from VidCon this year, (okay! This is crazy. He and his brother actually founded VidCon. What the heck?!). Go listen. It was inspiring, eye opening, and very very funny.
And now I'd like to leave you with some quotes from that to get you motivated to listen and understand why this guy completely deserves all of the success he's getting, even if I disagree about the book in the lime light, because it's so much more than that:
on small talk: "I don't know how to have conversations about nothing."
"Any kind of dramatic change in your life, even positive change, is incredibly stressful."
"If you're not guided by that desire to make a difference in people's lives, you get off the path really really quickly."
Real end note: I'm not going to call him my favorite author, I've only liked one of his books so far, but I do have mad respect to him as a person. And also, Barbara Park will never be outdone. :)