John Green’s name is on the lips of every middle schooler I know right now. In fact, he’s been a fixture in middle schools for a few years and has several books and short stories under his belt. John won the 2006 Printz Award for his debut novel, Looking for Alaska, and is currently holding strong to number 1 spots on book lists for the popular The Fault in Our Stars. Green is so popular that he was included as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in Time magazine because he’s so charismatic and busy with multiple platforms of writing and speaking. This is a man who calls his fans nerdfighters and they love it.
Why John Green?
Last year, The Guardian published an interview with John Green that offered a peek into what makes his writing so relatable to teens. In it, he says which, as an educator, I can wholeheartedly agree and that is that he’s “…tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren’t smart” and his writing reflects his beliefs about the realness, including all the hard parts, about being a teenager:
Teenagers are doing so many things for the first time, says John Green, and asking big questions about life, loss, love and politics. He is clearly very interested in teens and what they experience and encounter in their childhood. When he replied to my question about what makes writing for teenagers so interesting, I felt like I was talking to another adolescent.
Since we’re promoting a love of Reading Not Tweeting this month, we wanted to provide a list of perfect YA titles with a short synopsis from the inimitable John Green that you can introduce to your teen or that you can read for yourself if you haven’t already!
By far, Green’s most popular work that turned into a blockbuster at the movie theaters this summer, was The Fault in Our Stars. Personally, when I read it I couldn’t put it down and had to complete it in one sitting. Hazel has been afforded a medical miracle that has helped her tumor shrink but she knows, as well as anyone with a sense of understanding of the fragility of life, that it’s a terminal diagnosis. Suddenly, though, a new guy shows up at her Cancer Kid Support Group and we’re introduced to Augustus Waters who challenges her at every turn and offers her a final chapter that is alarmingly thoughtful and beautiful. Teens who read this all seem to love the strong feelings offered in this book and can relate to Hazel’s sense of apprehension of the possibility of love.
Teenagers love a good love story, but Colin Singleton’s experience with girls who all share the name Katherine, won’t deliver. He keeps getting dumped and is up to 19 Katherines by the time we meet this character. In order to make sense of this, he and his best friend
Hassan, go on a road trip without a destination. Colin loves anagrams and is living with the past of being a prodigy. Somewhat of a genius, Colin sets out to prove his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability. On the way, we’re treated to interesting characters, a dead archduke’s bones, and a heartening and hilarious ending that allows teens to realize that they can reinvent themselves.
John’s debut novel, Looking for Alaska, debuted in 2006 and won the Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association. It’s about Miles “Pudge” Halter whose life feels like one big non-moment. Pudge has a preoccupation with famous last words and his whole existence has been one big nonevent. His obsession with famous last words leads him to Culver Creek Boarding School where he’s put in risky situation with the destructive Alaska Young, a girl who seems to have it all as well as a life full of the opposite of what Pudge has experienced. She teaches him that risks are good even as she’s stealing his heart.
The main character is so wonderful that John Green went ahead and put it it in the title. Twice. But don’t let that make you think that Tiny Cooper, another character, isn’t entirely important and interesting. But, that’s just the thing: there’s another teen named Will Grayson just like our main character. He wrote this book with David Levithan. The common theme you’ll find in John Green books is that there is nothing but possibility and magic and the power to look beyond yourself which probably makes them so endearing to teens who are hoping to find the same in their lives. I’ve noticed that more mature YA readers tend to check this one out of the library.
You know how it goes. You’re a kid with an awesome name (Quentin Q. Jacobson) and someone you haven’t thought about since the time you both discovered a dead body in the park shows up at your window dressed like a ninja with black paint on her face comes to see you. Typical evening, right? But, why stop there? Why not break into houses and leave mysterious clues for people and then wake up the next day for school as if nothing happened? But, something did happen. And Quentin and Margo Roth Spiegelman know that something happened. What, exactly? As Quentin tries to get closer to Margo he realizes that he doesn’t really know her anymore. Green’s theme of delving into the personal while digging up the past is haunting and teens love when that happens.
Want More John Green?
In 2007, John and his brother Hank hosted a popular internet blog, “Brotherhood 2.0,” where they discussed the happenings in their lives, books they liked and read as well as current events. They created a vlog every day for a year and then continued vlogging. You can follow John and Hank Green’s vlog, The VlogBrothers, here, and you can read John’s Tumblr page here.
Photo credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (John GreenUploaded by MaybeMaybeMaybe) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons