"Frankly, I'd read [his] grocery lists"

This week has been National Library Week, that one week in April that I look forward to year round, because it gives me an excuse to geek out about my future career even more than usual. It just so happens that today, "Support Teen Literature Day" has arrived with perfect timing, as it coincides with the solidifying of my recent musings on the subject of a favorite YA author, the wonderful John Green.

John Green, writer and youtuber, makes up half of the vlogbrothers (Hank Green, his brother, is the other half), hosts the Literature and History portions of the Crash Course education series, and is the author of Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of KatherinesPaper Towns, and (most importantly, in my opinion!) The Fault in Our Stars.

I first became acquainted with John Green's writing Spring semester 2013, when I picked up TFiOS one weekend for some homework-break reading. The story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two cancer-survivors who meet in a support group, held me in thrall and was surprisingly not as predictable as you might expect a story about cancer patients to be. Aside from the story itself, (which left me with all sorts of Feels) I loved Mr. Green's style. The man just knows how to say things. The book is full of one-liners that have been the stuff of dreams for typographical artists on tumblr and pinterest (...one liners, which I just realized have not made it to my quote tree yet. That's being remedied tonight.)

After that first reading, I didn't pick up another John Green book until this winter, when I returned to TFiOS for a re-read, and decided that I should expand my Green experience. As of yesterday, I've read all four of the aforementioned books (in reverse order of printing date). TFiOS remains my top favorite, and I enjoyed PT, but AAoK and LfA didn't quite grab me in the same way. Despite my personal preferences, I could see what makes these books stand out from others as good Teen Lit. Green's characters all struggle with some sort of existential question, those questions of being that every person faces at some point in their life. Augustus fears oblivion and dying without having done anything meaningful in life; similarly, Colin (AAoK) wants to matter; Margo (PT) wants to be seen for who she is; and Alaska (LfA) questions the suffering and pain of life. There's some deeply philosophical stuff in these books that you just don't find very often in typical Teen Lit. I don't know exactly what Mr. Green's personal faith/worldview is, but reading his work from my Christian worldview has given me plenty of opportunities to look at the questions his characters asked in light of my own beliefs, and goodness knows, I like a book that makes me think.

Now, before I give my "go forth and read" I must say one thing more. As a librarian-in-training-meets-conservative-homeschooled-kid, I often struggle with the idea of censorship and what should/shouldn't be read. All of these books I've talked about have situations and language that I do not endorse, but as a discerning adult (Wait, did I really just say that? When did I become an adult?) I have been able to sift the chaff from the wheat, as it were. To concerned parents I say this: know your child. I wouldn't recommend these books to my 17 year-old brother, cause he wouldn't get the "why" of them, but every kid is different. To teens: Be discerning and engaged. Think.

Ok, now I can say it. Go forth and read!

your friendly neighborhood Teen Librarian-in-Training. (Gosh, I can't wait to drop the "in-training" bit.)

Sarah

P.S. The title of this post is a quote from TFiOS  from a scene where Hazel Grace writes her favorite author and tells him, "Frankly, I'd read your grocery lists" when asking him to write more. It sums up my feelings toward Mr. Green's writing very well, so I thought it appropriate.
-S



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