The Abundance of John Green (in Looking for Alaska)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A few years ago, during fellowship hour at my church, a friend and her daughter began describing their most recent literary adventure.  They'd driven to New York, they said, to see John Green read.  The line to get in was at least a block long.  When the crowd finally fully compacted, when it contained its excitement and hushed, John Green wasn't just the funny, smart, wonderful, warm writer my friend and her daughter thought he would be.  He was infinitely better than that.

I believe it.  Like Libba Bray, John Green emanates a good Bigness, not just of talent, but of spirit.  Travels to his web site yield a glimpse of a guy whose humor, occasional gentle self-mockery, and unabashed love for World Cup Soccer have remained intact, through the tsunami of his success.  If you had a chance to visit readergirlz during their John Green month, you'd find the man waving with both hands, talking up playlists, and jiving his way through his infamous tweets (he hates the term social media, apparently, but he's textbook good at it). If you've read any of his books, or even just the acknowledgments in his books, or maybe the extras in his books, you get the aforementioned good Bigness.

This morning I've been reading the book that launched Green's career, Looking for Alaska, because it is a good thing, I think, to go back to the beginning with authors, to remember what was first for them, the platform that they built from.  Everything is right about this book—the tone, the relationships, the slow build of tension and mystery (slow, or fast, depending on how you take to the chapter "titles' which are all variations of "fifty-eight days before" or "one-day after").  Alaska has the intelligence of A Separate Peace and the wit of a Salinger.  It has something only this former hospital chaplain might have written about The Meaning of it All.

Green's work will, I'm certain, be around for a long time.  He is an author who makes me proud to be counted among the YA writers of right now.  Because Green's work is first-rate  no matter what genre label you give it, and that's what YA books must be, first and foremost—well-written, thoughtful, funny if the author can swing it, capable of leaving readers psychically richer than they were. 


Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

I loved Looking for Alaska, for all these reasons.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Okay, that's it. I've been saying I'm going to read some John Green and now you've convinced me. He's going straight to the top of my pile.

Liviania said...

I saw John Green when he came to Austin with David Levithan for WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON. It was extremely memorable.

I forgot about Austin traffic and showed up fifteen minutes later than I meant to. This meant I was standing in the stairwell since the event was so packed.

But even only being able to hear what was going on, I could imagine their expressions since both of them had such forceful personalities.

Also, John Green whipped out the c-word while discussing censorship in YA, which is definitely out of the ordinary for a YA book signing.

Lorie Ann Grover said...

Like you, so proud to have him in our YA world. Absolutely.

Mandy said...

John Green is a gifted author, fabulous speaker, and I really love how he's used his success to reach teens (and adults) in a meaningful way. His work with the Harry Potter Alliance is truly heartwarming.

Melissa Walker said...

LOOKING FOR ALASKA is a favorite! I finally met John Green at ALA this year--total fun. And I've just started AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES. Yay!

Julia said...

Alaska is one of my favorites.

Beth F said...

Argh. I have every one of his books in my house and I haven't yet read one word. Sigh.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by 2008

Back to TOP