I asked that question in the fall of last year when The Fault in Our Stars finally made it onto my radar. So I have spent the past few months reading four of John Green's books and watching his vlog. (I hate myself for typing that word.) Note, NO SPOILERS IN THIS POST.
Who is John Green and WTF is a Nerdfighter?
John Green is a famous young adult author and vlogger. He was nominated twice (winner once) for the Michael L. Printz, which is awarded to the "best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit".
In 2007 he started the VlogBrothers youtube channel with his brother, Hank Green. The premise was that instead of using any other communication, they would only communicate through video. Now it is so much more. It is still hosted by the brothers, but it's meant for a much larger audience and each video typically has a topic, like
Since the VlogBrothers have became famous they have also gotten a budget, so some of their videos have great animation, like this one about mass incarceration in the US, which was critiqued by fellow GTer Sailor Jupiter.
Besides their main YouTube channel they have also created others, like crashcourse where you can take a crash course in everything from Literature to World History to Chemistry taught by the brothers.
Fans of the Green brothers and their shows are called Nerdfighters.
There was some kind of controversy, right? What was that all about?
Basically, media outlets began praising John Green for his innovative YA novels. NY Times Book Reviewer AJ Jacobs wrote:
GreenLit, as I like to call it, consists of realistic stories told by a funny, self-aware teenage narrator. These novels tend to have sharp dialogue, defective authority figures, occasional boozing, unrequited crushes and one or more heartbreaking twists.
Basically, by attributing this to John Green, it's discounting that this style has been around before him by people that aren't white and male.
No, I mean the Book Con controversy
Book Con is a large event in NYC this year for those ineligible to attend Book Expo American (thank you tookiedelacreme for the correction). When they released their lineup, which included John Green, people quickly noticed that there were no POC (though there is a cat, not that it helps, it's just silly).
With the huge audience that JG has, he should speak up. As far as I can tell he has not spoken about this obvious disaster of a lineup.
Though, after a lot of backlash you will notice there are now some POC in the lineup.
So, do you recommend his books?
Aside from one (I'm looking at you An Abundance of Katherines) I found his books okay. I think that his books would have resonated with me MUCH more if I was in high school. Now I just don't find his characters realistic. They all seem like manic pixie dream people who are way too obsessed with metaphors. From best to worst:
The Fault in Our Stars (2012): Hazel Grace and Augustus are two teens who have cancer and fall in love. As you may suspect, the whole novel is extremely emotional. If you're the type of person likes the idea of a cancer lover story, then you will enjoy it. If not, stay away. It was entertaining enough that I read it quickly. Of course, I ugly cried a lot, but I also cry during basically everything ever. Enjoyability: 8/10
Paper Towns (2008): Q is a high school senior who has lived next to manic pixie dream girl Margo Roth Spiegelman his whole life. They were friends in childhood, but haven't hung out since. After a spur of the moment crazy night together including sneaking into Seaworld, getting bit by a (non-poisonous) snake, and shaving off Q's enemy's eyebrow, Margo runs away. Q thinks that she has left clues for him about her location, so he spends the rest of his senior year on a mission to find her through Walt Whitman and urban exploration. Enjoyability: 7/10
Looking for Alaska (2005): I was very disappointed to find that this book is *not* about some explorers discovering Alaska. Alas, it is about Miles, an unpopular high school boy who starts going to a boarding school in Alabama and falls in love with the manic pixie dream girl named Alaska (she named herself!). For years when I was young, I desperately wanted to be named Unicorn and I refuse to believe a child would choose as cool a name as Alaska. Enjoyability: 6.5/10
An Abundance of Katherines (2006): UGH. I forced myself to finish this one. It's about Colin, an unpopular (and extremely annoying) high school boy who has dated 18 girls named Katherine. After the 18th Katherine dumps him, he goes on a road trip with his best friend. They find a job in the middle of nowhere Tennessee and move in with a family there.
Colin is a prodigy and is trying to develop a mathematical equation that will graph his relationship with Katherines. He thinks that it will help him predict future relationships and will secure his place in academia. WHAT. WHAT. WHAT. Okay, my other bookish friends didn't hate this one as much as I did. I found him insufferable. Also as a math major YOU CAN FIT A CURVE A MILLION WAYS. FITTING A CURVE TO DATA THAT YOU MADE UP WILL NOT GET YOU PUBLISHED OR RESPECTED IN ANY WAY. Also your footnotes are annoying. Enjoyability: 1/10
Thoughts? Are you a nerdfighter? Do you know one?