John Green

Writes Okay Books and Is Often Funny on the Internet

About the Author

John Green has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Michael L. Printz award, which recognizes one outstanding Young Adult book each year. His books are tremendously popular, and his most recent publication, The Fault in Our Stars, became a bestseller before it was even released due to the volume of pre-orders. Two of his books have film adaptations: The Fault in Our Stars was released in 2014 and Paper Towns is scheduled to be released this year.

John grew up in Florida with his parents and his brother Hank, attended a southern boarding school that would later inspire his novel Looking for Alaska, and graduated from Kenyon College. Before he became a writer, John was actually in training to become a minister. He is married to Sarah Green (sometimes referred to as "the Yeti"), a museum curator. They have two young children, Henry and Alice.

When John is not writing books, he spends a lot of time developing internet content with his brother, Hank Green. Many years ago, John and Hank began a project called "Brotherhood 2.0" in which they challenged themselves to stop communicating in text and instead post a short video every weekday to update each other on their lives. They posted the videos to Youtube and quickly gained a following, which was promptly named "nerdfighteria." John and Hank continue to post funny videos, but they also create educational videos through their program "Crash Course," and they often raise money and awareness for various charitable causes.

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John Green's List of Works

For this project I read:

The Fault in Our Stars

Paper Towns

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

An Abundance of Katherines

Previously I had read:

Looking for Alaska

If you're thinking of reading a John Green novel, I'd start with The Fault in Our Stars and avoid Looking for Alaska.

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Common Themes in John Green's Work

The theme that I saw the most throughout John Green's work was the idea that you can never really know another person if you cling to the perfect image you have of that person in your head. This theme was central to both Looking For Alaska and Paper Towns. The male protagonists of both of these books are completely infatuated with girls whom they imagine to be unattainable and perfect. Their perfect image ultimately gets in the way of them being able to know who these girls really are as people. Crucially, both girls also disappear from the narrative early in the story, so they never really tell us readers their real story either, leaving us just as clueless as the male narrators.

Another topic that John explores in several books is the senselessness of loss: this shows up in Alaska, Paper Towns, and Fault in Our Stars.

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John Green's Writing Style

John Green's writing style is very straightforward, which is probably why so many people find his books to be an easy read. Here are some of the specific features of his style that I recorded while conducting this study:

  • His books are all told in the first person.
  • In narrative parts of the story, he tends to write long sentences, but not complex ones. Most of his sentences are simple or compound.
  • In dialogue, he often uses short sentences and fragments to accurately portray how teenagers speak.
  • Almost all of his sentences begin with the subject. (And the subject is usually "I.")
  • He's not big on description of settings; he tends to get stuck in his narrator's thoughts and feelings instead.
  • He swears frequently.
  • He makes a lot of very specific pop culture references. (I wonder if this will make his books more challenging to understand 20 years from now.)

On a random page in a John Green book:

  • Sentences vary in length from 2 to 42 words per sentence.
  • Average sentence length is 18 words.
  • 64% of sentences are compound; 36% are simple; none are complex.
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Ingredients of a John Green Character

With one very notable exception, all of John Green's narrators are essentially the same. They are boys in their late teens, exceptionally intelligent but not necessarily successful in school, who have trouble connecting socially with their peers and feel it's because they are deeply misunderstood. They all need to learn to get over themselves and realize that everyone else has their own struggles to work through, and, generally, by the end of the novel they do just that. Usually these characters have spent their lives being cautious but resentful wallflowers, and at the beginning of the novel some event causes them to start taking risks and connecting with people for the first time. This profile basically fits the narrators of Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and An Abundance of Katherines, and it sort of applies to Will Grayson, Will Grayson as well.

The big exception to this rule is Hazel Grace Lancaster, the protagonist of The Fault in Our Stars. Like Green's other protagonists, Hazel has spent most of her life observing rather than participating and taking risks, but unlike the others she does not hang out on the sidelines because she's worried she'll be misunderstood. Hazel has terminal cancer, and is therefore worried about getting too attached to people and letting them get too attached to her. Like the other protagonists, an event early in the story leads her to start taking risks for the first time, but this is more a story about her learning to love even when she knows it's going to hurt than it is a story about learning to see other people as real people.

She's also Green's only female narrator. Perhaps that's why I liked her the best.

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