Good morning Rebels, and welcome back to my life.
Really quick: thank you for your kind words about Writer Wednesdays so far. I’m always just a little bit nervous when I try out a new thing, and feedback from you guys helps me know if what I’m doing is worth it. So, thank you.
Last week I read John Green’s book Paper Towns, only my second John Green novel ever, in anticipation of the movie coming out in July.
I read John’s The Fault in Our Stars and I really loved it, but I thought that might just have been because the subject matter was really important to me, having had many family encounters with cancer.
And teen romance books are not my general reading material, so I read Paper Town partly because I love John Green as a person and want to support him but partly to see if my enjoyment of TFiOS was just a fluke.
Long story short: it was not a fluke.
That’s it, end of video. You can go back to your life now.
Oh, you want to know more? Okay, well fine, first let’s talk about the fact that, yeah, this is a teen romance novel. Sort of.
Some people complain that John Green only EVER writes teen romances and they’re populated with the same cast of characters each time—namely, young white people.
Yeah, there’s a few things wrong with that. First, there is nothing wrong with picking an audience and writing for them if that’s what you love. By that logic, George R. R. Martin is a hack because he only writes for people who like fantasy. Which is, like, everyone.
Second, John Green HAS written works in other genres. He even wrote a zombie story.
And the only reason you never heard of them before is because THIRD, John Green writes for a traditional publisher, and his teen romances are published and promoted by that traditional publisher, and THAT is why they’re the only books you hear about.
FOURTH, If you think every John Green character is exactly the same, it’s probably because you haven’t read his books. Quentin is very different from Augustus and Margo is very different from Hazel Grace.
If all four of them are played in the movies by really hot white actors in their early twenties, that’s a product of the Hollywood machine, not John’s writing.
Like in the books Margo is consistently described by everyone BUT Quentin as not really that attractive, and Hazel’s face is bloated and distended with chemotherapy. And while I understand why Hollywood cast it the way they did, you can’t blame the author.
All right, enough of me complaining about stupid criticisms that get on my nerves. What did I like about Paper Towns?
Let’s get this out of the way right now: John Green is an amazing writer. Maybe the best. He is a wordsmith. He is the most effective possible counterargument to my constant assertion that most great writers did not go to college.
That’s easy to see whether you’re reading his books or just watching his YouTube videos. The guy knows how to use words.
John Green’s writing is the kind of thing that makes me want to write more books like Rebel Yell, which is a really powerful statement for me to make because Rebel Yell is officially my worst-selling book ever, even worse than Hit Girls.
The most mesmerizing part of Paper Towns is its theme—that people are never truly how we think of them in our minds, and we can never hope to wholly and completely understand them—we can only understand an approximation of them.
Every character in the book misunderstands every other character, seeing them as something they are not, and the most disturbing thing about this revelation is that unlike many tricks of the human mind, knowing it’s happening doesn’t stop it from happening.
Like knowing that we create false, idealized versions of people in our head doesn’t stop us from doing it—it only lets us try to craft our idea into something a little closer to reality, knowing we’ll never truly achieve that.
It’s an uncomfortable thought, and yet we still have to face it, just as the characters in the novel are faced with many uncomfortable possibilities and yet have to confront them.
And of course the book is John Green, so it’s just as quotable as all get-out. So quotable, in fact, that people attribute quotes to it that aren’t even there. Link in the doobly-doo.
I hope you’ll check out Paper Towns, Rebels, and if you do there’s an affiliate link in the description to pick it up. Whether you’re a writer or a reader, there’s something to learn from that book.
As always, thank you so much for watching, and I will see you tomorrow. Maybe. Byyye.