6 Times John Green Hit it Home

By: Sam Fletcher, October 25th, 2023 10:10 am.

Sincerity is harder than it looks. You must be honest and open with the reader. Open like a book.

But when everything does come together, it can provide a real sense of genuine emotional catharsis.

One writer who understands this better than anyone is John Green, resonating with young readers far and wide. Many of his stories and characters strike a deep chord, relating universal issues in an accessible and evocative style

Here are some moments that stuck out from Green’s career. But be warned, there are spoilers ahead, so be sure to check out the books first.

Highlighting mental-health issues – Turtles All the Way Down (2017)

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Not only is this story a compelling mystery, but it’s also a powerful insight into mental illness. At the heart of it, Aza Holmes feels genuine and heartfelt when he could’ve so easily slipped into mawkish sentimental cliché at the hands of a lesser writer. Green may already have proven himself to be a dab hand at portraying the pains of adolescence, but here he also examines the destructive effects of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Using his own experiences with the illness, Green makes it easy to empathize with Aza’s struggles. It didn’t matter that I haven’t had the condition myself; I still felt able to gain an insight into its thought processes. And that can only be a plus in bringing these issues to light.

Living with oblivion – The Fault in Our Stars (2012)

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At just sixteen years of age, cancer patient Hazel Grace Lancaster is facing death head-on. So not an easy subject to tackle by any measure. But John Green manages precisely that with his two teenage leads, Hazel and Augustus, finding each other before spending their finite precious moments together. Not only that, it does it with plenty of humor and heart.

One of the book’s main points is how its young characters face their mortality. It manages this by striking a balance between not glossing over their suffering and not dwelling on it. ‘The physical evidence of disease separates you from other people,’ Hazel points out as their love story shines a light in the darkness. Telling the reader ‘every moment is precious’ might be trite in of itself, but Green earns it, showing the cold hard reality behind the statement.

Miles and Alaska’s relationship – Looking for Alaska (2005)

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You can’t force a relationship. It has to feel natural, and this debut from Green achieves that. While ultimately tragic, Miles and Alaska’s dynamic rings true throughout. Dealing with heartache and letting go, it’s a touching look at how our perspectives shift in the face of a catastrophe.

Learning that Green used 9/11 to help shape many of his thoughts here makes all the more sense reading it. And it’s the authenticity of Miles and Alaska’s interactions that sets the story’s foundation. Coping with grief and finding meaning beyond it, their relationship forms the ideal template to explore these ideas.

Quentin discovers the truth about Margo – Paper Towns (2008)

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Well, it’s more a case of discovering himself than anything else. As opposed to finding the perfect romance, this makes a case for looking beyond an idealized image. Quentin Jacobsen searches South Dakota for his childhood sweetheart Margo Spiegelman after she vanishes, leaving behind a trail of clues.

With good use of metaphors, a road journey gives our characters a clear ‘goal.’ Green also makes a strong case for being true to yourself and not allowing others to define you. Quentin’s trip is ideal for framing this, giving its ending a bitter-sweet punch that’s all the more satisfying.

Academic pressure for success – An Abundance of Katherines (2006)

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Living up to other people’s expectations can be stressful, especially when finding an identity of your own. Colin Singleton is a once child-prodigy, while the tone is a little more offbeat for Green here. Hitting the road, Colin wants to take his mind off academic pressures as he hopes to have his ‘eureka’ moment.

After striving to be the unique genius others expected him to become, Colin goes on to finally make peace with himself. It’s a touching realization, declaring himself ‘not-unique in the very best possible way.’ With the pressure now gone, he doesn’t need to fill the empty hole in his stomach anymore.

Acceptance of yourself – Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010)

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So David Levithan is also responsible for this one, with them both writing the book together. Equally doing their part in creating this emotional roller-coaster, I don’t want to leave either out.

Told through two different perspectives of two Will Graysons, one being heterosexual and the other gay, both come together as the book progresses. The second Will Grayson, as written by David Levithan, is depressed and angry, trying to terms with his crush on another man.

The novel provides a real sense of hope, delivering a message of acceptance and self-love. That may seem somewhat simple on the surface, but it’s sincere and, ultimately, hits home.

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