Sunday, 5 August 2012

Um, I don't think you understand. I need to read ALL the John Green novels.

Falling in love with a new author always brings out two different desires in me. The first, is the wish that I'd discovered them years ago, because now they have suddenly brought so much to my reading life  that I have been missing out on. If only I had known about them sooner, who knows how different my life would be! (Okay, that might be a little over the top, but you get the picture). The second is the overwhelming need to read every single thing the author has written, ever. That feeling of excitement and joy when you realise they have a whole back catalogue of books that are yet to be read - the anticipation is delicious. Unsurprisingly - given the title of this post - this is exactly how I feel about John Green. I've raced through two more of his novels since devouring Looking for Alaska, so I thought I'd mini-review them both for you this week, just because I like them (and you!) so much.

Before I get into the book-y stuff, let's just find out a bit about the author first. I'll summarise his wikipedia page briefly for you - he's a 34 year old guy who is a New York Times best seller, married with one kid, lives in Indiana and is one half of the Vlogbrothers. "What?" I hear you ask. So, in 2007  John and his brother Hank decided they would communicate with each other only via video blogs and would stop all text based communication. I know, right? It turned out to be pretty popular, and at the end of 2007 they announced that the vlogging would continue and you can find out all sorts of interesting things and watch some videos over at their website, Nerdfighters

I feel the need here to make a point here about the internet. Huh...I've just realised I do that a lot. Oh well - it is something I think about pretty often and how generally, I'm grateful that it wasn't as pervasive or accessible when I was a teenager as it is now. Basically, the internet and email were cool, but they weren't such a big deal, you know? Social networking still happened in the playground, via telephones attached to landlines and on weekends at each others houses. Internet based conversations still happened via ICQ. So it makes me happy to find out that sites like Nerdfighters exist, because it is a cool place, and seems to be very much about letting teens (and everyone) be who they are and not telling them who they should be. 

The second John Green book I got my hands on was the intriguingly titled Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-written with David Levithan. It sounds like it could be a poem about or a love song written to some guy called Will Grayson. Which it kind of is, in a metaphorical sense, except that the novel is about two guys who both happen to be called Will Grayson. It's an incredible cliche to describe books (and movies, songs, paintings, interpretive dance) as moving, but in this case it's true. It's also incredible funny - both straight up hilarious, and also in that "ha ha - ouch" way that is bittersweet and ironic. The Will Graysons meet under unlikely circumstances and from that night, their lives suddenly start moving in unexpected directions. This novel also features a musical, written by the most fabulous supporting character in a novel ever. The first Will Grayson we meet has a best friend named Tiny - and so obviously he is huge. Larger than life and huge of heart, he is the writer of said musical, which is autobiographical and features a character named "Gil Wrayson" - which was the biggest laugh out loud moment of the novel for me. Seriously, I'm giggling right now as I write this. WORDPLAY. 

I read a really interesting article today, questioning the need to categorise young adult novels as "YA" given that so many of them have "crossover appeal" and are read by a far more wide ranging audience than 13 - 18 year old readers. After all, it's not like the YA categorisation is like a PG or M rating on a movie, and nor should it be. One of the things I like so much about reading John Green is that things get pretty frank at times, without being deliberately titillating simply for attention and shock value. It's just real. 

The third John Green novel was the delightful, beautiful and sad The Fault in Our Stars. I'm going to warn you straight up here - it's about teenagers who have cancer, so maybe don't read it on the train on the way to work if you are the sort of person who tears up easily. Just a suggestion. I don't know if I'm making too much of this - so please, I would value your opinion - but I was really impressed at how well Green writes from the perspective of a teenage girl. Now, I'm not a huge fan of making a big deal about differences between the genders, but there was not one moment reading The Fault in Our Stars where I questioned Hazel's voice. The greatest thing about this novel though, is how honest it is about the struggles of its characters without remotely becoming an episode of 7th Heaven. Like all his novels, it's just real. Kind of messy and difficult, with occasional moments of light. And no sermonising or proselytising from Reverend Camden. Phew.

No comments:

Post a Comment