There’s no doubting that John Green is a great author. Even if you remove the YA tag on his books, his writing, sense of humour and ability to create strong, emotional characters is wonderful. When I read The Fault in our Stars it swiftly became one of my favourite books and still lauds itself in my top three. Greens writing breaks down that YA barrier and his words can have an effect on anybody from any age as his ideas are universal. Having been nagged by several friends to read the rest of his work I started out with Paper Towns.
The idea of Margo in this novel was great; she is the enigma that everyone wants to be. However, things aren’t what they seem and one day Margo disappears on a journey away from her home town. It begins as Margo climbs through Quentins window and takes him on a night of planned revenge on his classmates. When he wakes the next day, the girl he cares for and idolises has gone and left a plethora of clues as to her whereabouts.
The journey that Q takes is very thoughtful and he ponders the ideas of how we put people on a pedestal despite not really knowing them. One of the beautiful things about Paper Towns is how the disappearance of one girl actually brings Q and his classmates closer. Green’s work is incredibly philosophical in places and he never writes a page that doesn’t contain some form of message. Even at the age of 30 I walked away from the novel thinking about how we perceive people and the world around us.
I’ll admit, the characters aren’t quite as strong as Green’s other works, but Paper Towns is more about the world in which they inhabit rather than the cast themselves.
Next on the list was Looking for Alaska, the book that propelled John Green into the YA world and the one that every fan swears by.
I felt the same about this as I did with Paper Towns, I have to say. Neither of them climbed to the height of The Fault in our Stars, but maybe if I’d read this first it would be different. Looking for Alaska is still a great novel and perhaps has the edge over Paper Towns purely because of the ensemble. Alaska, the titular character, is a powerful tool in both the plot and the emotions of the surrounding cast.
Miles is looking for The Great Perhaps to happen to him, something that will define his life. He heads of to Culver Creek boarding school and meets Alaska Young and The Colonel, from then his life will never be the same.
It’s hard to describe the power of this novel without revealing the pivot point in the plot, but it’s perhaps best if I say the novel is about suddenness. Sudden love, sudden friendship and sudden loss. Once again Green has written a concept that can appeal to any person of any age and to pigeonhole his work as YA is actually a disservice. Sure the protagonists are teenagers and he describes the typical American teen life, but with this novel in particular there’s a vast amount of darkness and philosophy that would make anyone ponder their own existence.
Green’s strength has to be in his delivering of emotion and it comes by the bucketload in Looking for Alaska. Greens’ writing goes from mild tickling of the ribs to a punch in the heart and certain scenes certainly deliver that sudden feeling.
An Abundance of Katherines was next and what can I say? Every author has a low point. I gave up on this novel around 70 pages in. It was awful compared to his other solo novels. It doesn’t feature the characters of Alaska, nor the emotion of Fault and the humour of Paper Towns is lost among a bunch of forced stereotypical jokes that didn’t raise a smirk from me.
The idea of a boy who has dated nineteen different Katherines is a bit farfetched, but hey, it’s John Green. For me, nothing could help this book. The main character Colin is unlovable, he constantly moans throughout the pages and his life just isn’t believable enough. The language that Green uses is also a little irritating and his use of the cast’s teenage slang becomes tiresome.
I will eagerly anticipate his next novel as his writing and imagination is superb. For me, nothing can beat The Fault in our Stars. That book oozes emotion, charisma and humour in Abundance (ba-dum-tish). [As a side note, the quote “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt” from AFioS is the most searched term on this blog]