The Fault in Our Stars: the goodness of John Green

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A few years ago a friend told me about the long drive she'd made with her teenaged daughter to see John Green.  She described the lines that had wrapped the streets near the bookstore, the legions of teens and how they screamed for this rock-star writer.  I hadn't read Green yet, but shortly after that I did.  I understood.

Last night and early this morning I read The Fault in Our Stars, Green's new novel about teens living with cancer. Not long ago I interviewed a girl in recovery who was destined to make it—she told me her plans, she was certain—and didn't.  You can't forget a girl like that.  Nor will you forget Green's teens. 

It is true, perhaps, that Green's characters have a tendency to speak and think alike—that they are all, even the minor characters, equally witty and in the same gentle ways witty—but I'm not sure that matters here.  What matters is that John Green creates characters we care about, and that he allows them to think deeply, and that he sets them on life's course, which is to say that he can't protect them, he can't save them, and sometimes they can't save themselves.  What he can do is give them what we all need, which is to say love.  John Green writes from a place of goodness.  His stories are soul-centric.  They move us because they are not afraid of kindness, gentleness, tender affections.  They don't bother to wrap themselves inside the hard casings of excessive irony or gore, the aren't-I-outlandish, the please-look-at-me.  They may take some unusual plot turns, but they're not trying to pretend.  They're trying to love.  And they are succeeding.

There are so many lines in this book that are worth quoting.  I'm going to quote the simplest one.  "She is funny without ever being mean."

Yes.  And why not?  And why not more goodness like the kind we encounter in John Green?


Serena said...

I like the idea of more goodness in the world...I unfortunately am very self-deprecating in my humor, so I can't say that I would be able to make that shift overnight...but its good to dream about that...more of that in the world...humor without meanness. I have not read Green either, but I doubt I'd start with Fault in our stars because of the kids with cancer angle...too hard for me to read.

Melissa Sarno said...

I love it when we share a mindspace :) And what a perfect quote to pick. You always write from a place of goodness too. I think it is a good place to start from.

Amy said...

What a lovely post, Beth.

I loved this book a lot for its heart as well, and some of the most lovely things I've ever read.

Sarah Laurence said...

I ordered this book after reading the NYT review. Looking for Alaska was one of my favorite YA books but both my son and I felt Paper Towns was way too similar, both in plot and characters. Still, I love the way Green writes and his message and this new premise sounds fresh. It's his humor wed with compassion that draws me back for more.

Patty said...

I have so many students who are adoring fans of John Green -- and i've not yet read any of his work. I think I must! Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

This book is currently on its way to me, somewhere between the States and Australia. I love John Green's work and can't wait to read this one. Your post made me even more excited to read it. :)

Julia said...

I almost expected the book to end in the middle of a sentence. Fantastic, but a bit predictable, I think.

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