I’ve got two words for you.
Have I mentioned that I love this author? That I’ve sworn by him ever since I read The Fault in our Stars? That I’ve unscrupulously convinced my mature friends to reach into their inner, young adult subconscious and start reading his books? That each of them who did swore to kill me after they cried buckets while reading TFIOS, and that they’ll never heed my recommendations again? (Bar the erotica I regularly throw their way, but that’s for another post…)
It may appear that I’m quite partial to young adult fiction, which honestly, okay, I am. But I would rather come clean with this, than pretend I’m a high-and-mighty intellectual who’s into philosophies, historical accounts, etc. I’m not. Sure I enjoy the occasional academic, literary read, but often I prefer something light, an easy yet sensible read, something which still evokes some existential insight in me. And I honestly think I’ve found all these in John Green’s books.
Since TFIOS, I’ve also read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Paper Towns, and recently, Looking for Alaska. I’ve yet to complete An Abundance of Katherines but I’m getting to it. Each book is uniquely written. Each character is smart, and witty, and independent, and just too awesome for their age. I think each book’s characters are clearly and thoughtfully introduced to the reader, so that the reader fully understands the character’s motivations, why he/she is the way he/she is, and how he/she is essential to the whole story.
Can I say that I loved all of these books? That I cannot wait for more from him? Or even better that any one of these be optioned into a film adaptation?
Let me quickly touch on Looking for Alaska which I just finished reading. It tells the story of Miles Halter, nicknamed Pudge by his new roomie, The Colonel, at Culver Creek. He’s a new junior at this boarding school. He instantly makes friends with The Colonel’s other friends, Takumi, a Japanese-American who’s into rapping, and Alaska Young, this fearless, moody girl who’s got a bad smoking habit. They’re sort of outcasts, albeit intelligent ones, in that they neither want to or actually fit into the mold of a usual Culver Creek student – standard-issue rich kid with perfect clothes and hair, raised in similarly perfect homes. They’re all from dysfunctional, non-standard families, Pudge being the only one who actually more fits the Culver profile, but not his weird penchant for famous people’s last words.
Pudge is introduced to the prank-induced high school life, often headed by the spunky Alaska and co-prankster, the Colonel. To add depth to their story, the Old Man is introduced – their creaky old religion teacher who quickly proves to not be an easy A. He has them studying three religious traditions: Islam, Christianity, and Budhhism. This forces them to open their minds to search for life’s meaning and the best way going about being a person.
This class proves a pivotal element in the characters’ lives. They engage in individual research for their final paper which tells them to answer What is the most important question each human being must answer?
Pudge’s question is What happens to us when we die? The Colonels asks, Why do good people get rotten lots in life?, while Alaska wants to know, How do we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? She paraphrases this from Simon Bolivar, lead character in the novel The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Each of their questions are clear reflections of each character’s lives. Alaska’s untimely death begs Pudge and Colonel to find painful answers to their own questions, while desperately finding an answer to her question, as well as find reason for her apparent suicide.
See, what I love about John Green is how he’s able to ingeniously wrap relevant, thought-provoking subjects in seemingly light, exceptionally witty, sometimes embarrassing coming-of-age stories, but which later pack a punch, and make the reader sit back, and truly think about life and its intricacies.
Full respect for this author, I tell you.
And, as always, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Jesus, I’m not going to be one of those people who sits around talking about what they’re gonna do. I’m just going to do it. Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.” – Alaska Young
“Suffering..Doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That’s the problem. Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of the labyrinth of suffering?” – Alaska Young
“And what is an instant death anyway? How long is an instant? Is it one second? Ten?” – Miles “Pudge” Halter
“If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.” – Miles “Pudge” Halter
“Everthing that comes together falls apart.” – on Zen, by the Old Man
“You’re two-thirds of the way there.” – Pudge to the Colonel
“Yeah, but I’m like three-fourths of the way to puking.” – Colonel to Pudge
For more on John Green and his work, visit his site – http://www.johngreenbooks.com