John Green forced me to ignore my children this summer.
Okay, okay, it was just for a handful of days. But still. Those few days spent with my nose in three John Green books were spectacular. Before going any further, I should point out that I’m a grown woman whose own adolescence was more than half a lifetime ago, but I found myself absolutely engrossed in the world of teenagers that Green has created. Maybe I was seeking out a nostalgic experience, even if my adolescent adventures were slightly different than the ones in his stories. Teenaged emotion– and angst, of course– are universal concepts, it would seem.
I started off with The Fault in Our Stars, the book I had heard the most buzz about, and by the end of the day, I could be found sobbing in my bed late into the night. Oh yeah, way to start off my John Green Fest with an emotional bang. I’ve been recording mini-reviews of all the books I’ve read since 2008 on my blog, and here’s what I had to say shortly after finishing this one:
Hi, my name is Dawn, and I went almost 38 years without reading anything by John Green. Shameful, I know. If only he had been writing when I was an actual teen, I would have gobbled up his every bit of work immediately after each publication. As it is, I was completely enamored by this story and these characters and consumed this book in less than a day. I laughed out loud as Hazel first talked about her favorite book, and how it was not a “cancer book.” Oh, John Green, you are freaking brilliant. I saw the events coming, but hoped against all odds that I was wrong. (I wasn’t, and I was an emotional mess.) This book is rife with declarations that any person, teen or adult, would love to have another say. “You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.” Swoon. An absolutely beautiful depiction of life and love in the context of facing one’s own mortality much sooner than it should be.
Yes, I swooned. And I also kicked myself for waiting so long to read a John Green book.
On a subsequent library trip, I moseyed over to the teens section, where I looked wildly out of place but scoured the G shelf nonetheless. I guess it’s a good sign that my large community library had only one John Green book on the shelf. That’s how Paper Towns came to be my next JG read. I wasn’t as completely charmed by this one as I was with The Fault in Our Stars, but I still quite enjoyed it, and it provided some lines that were so hilarious that I just had to post them to Facebook to engage others in a John Green lovefest. (This one in particular: ”Both my parents are therapists, which means that I am really g_d***ed well adjusted.”) Again, I was blown away by the realistic character voices, even if the parent in me cringed at the thought of my own soon-to-be teenager engaging in a night of craziness like these characters.
Now, it must be said that I came to the John Green party fairly late, even though my very own awesome editor Jennifer has been enthusiastically recommending him for a while now. From the beginning, Jennifer has told me that I really, really, really needed to read An Abundance of Katherines, but I knew I couldn’t wait for it to just show back up on the library shelf. Thankfully, it only took a few days before my online hold request came through and it became my third foray into the world of John Green. No surprise that Jennifer was correct in her prediction that I’d love it. Somehow, John Green did it again. He created a unique storyline with adolescent characters whose emotional lives are wholly relatable.
As of this writing, I’ve got a week left of summer break before my own kids head off to school, and our halcyon days of lounging around are gone. As long as the final two John Green books– Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson, Will Grayson– are available for me to pick up at the library this weekend, I’ll be able to finish up my summer reading on a happy note. Seeing as my own first-born child officially enters his teenaged years in just a few days, it only seems appropriate that I acquaint myself with the best of the best of contemporary Young Adult fiction!
Once I’ve finished all five of his novels, I’m anticipating that I’ll need to do a bit of exploring on his website, too. John Green, you got yourself one new fan this summer. Thanks for the entertainment and the stories that brought me into the mind of teenagers.
Update: In the time between writing this piece and its posting, I did in fact pick up the final two JG books at the library, and I spent my last three days of summer break with my nose buried in them. Many theories can be posed for why adults would be drawn to YA fiction, but for me, it came down to this– it’s easy for adults to forget, and YA books remind them. I’ve been sufficiently reminded this summer of just how BIG adolescence is, a time when everything in one’s life feels momentous, and I hope it gives me a helpful insight as I start my own new path as the parent of a teenager.