Give John Green a Break

I am a fan of John Green’s. Not his books, so much, John as a person. I’ve been watching him on YouTube since before I even knew he was an author. John and his brother, Hank, are both amazing people who really care about making the world a better place. They’re funny, smart, kind, and giving. Plus, like half the good things on YouTube are there because of them. (slight exaggeration, get over it)

When I first picked up An Abundance of Katherines in 2013 because John was starting to become pretty big in YA, the trend was to LOVE his books, especially The Fault in Our Stars. It wasn’t unusual to see teens living their life in TFIOS t-shirts or with DFTBA accessories. John was appearing on talk-shows, they were turning his books into movies, and people basically adored him.

Since I became a book blogger I’ve noticed a different trend. I guess John’s been popular for long enough now that it’s become cooler to not like his books. I typically expect to see criticism when I see his name on a book blog.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really love John’s books either. John and I have a fundamental disagreement about the job as a YA author as a role model, especially an insanely popular one like him. I also, for whatever reasons, rarely connect with his characters, especially the ones I recognize as versions of himself. Maybe I just know John too well to enjoy his books.

But I’m kind of tired of people who can’t stop with a simple critique. I’m tired of reading things like “he’s trying too hard to be deep or something” or “why can’t he just write a story instead of getting all philosophical?” For the record, it’s a perfectly valid opinion to not enjoy books that are too philosophical, but implying that his need to go deeper makes his books BAD is unfair. If they were bad they wouldn’t be winning awards.

And, for the record, John is NOT trying too hard. If anything, I’m sure it takes a massive amount of effort for him to include as little philosophy as he does. John cannot function without looking at the world in a deeper way. It’s just part of what makes John who he is. Enjoy one of his latest videos from as proof.

Probably I’m just more defensive of John because I see him as a real person, something it’s easy to forget. It’s easier and more fun to write on the internet about authors without thinking about the fact that they exist and they are human, just like us. Ironically, it was one of John’s books, Paper Towns, that really challenged me to view others as complicated individuals, and thanks to John that I try not to be too hard on the authors if I didn’t enjoy a book. Authors have feelings too, and I don’t want to be the person hurting them.

So give John Green a break. If you don’t like his books, feel free to say so. I fully expect a less-than stellar review of Turtles All the Way Down to be coming to my blog soon. I bought it mostly because I wanted a John Green autograph, not because I think I’ll like it. But try to keep your criticism constructive, and try to critique the BOOK, not the John. (And maybe consider giving this a try with other authors as well…)

19 thoughts on “Give John Green a Break

  1. My daughter is a huge fan of john green, as are most of her friends (we recently saw him and his brother on their book tour) If any kid feels less alone or afraid or awkward or different by reading his books, then bravo to him. In a world where the first reaction is to hate, why are we so ready to go against someone? Shouldn’t the overall goal of a society be to make everyone be the best person they can?

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    1. Wow, I hope you had an amazing time at the book tour! They didn’t come anywhere near us, so we didn’t have the chance. But we’ve missed vlogbrothers events in the past, so that’s really just an excuse. Mostly, we’re too cheap to pay to go to stuff, lol.

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  2. Well put.
    I enjoy John’s books, and like you stumbled upon the vlog brothers before I knew that John wrote books. I enjoy his books but I don’t find them to be the best ever. I’ve read way better books, but I do think he has something special. I agree that I don’t think he’s trying too hard. If you watch his videos, the deeply philosophical tone that his books take is pretty much just who John Green is. Like Maureen Johnson’s books are quirky and a little weird because that’s who Maureen Johnson is. My writing reflects a lot about me.
    I don’t understand the point of hating things because they are popular. John’s books have flaws, and I’m sure John would be one of the first to point all of them out to anyone who asks, but because he has a big fanbase isn’t a reason to find fault in work.

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  3. I think it’s up to the author if he wants to write good role models in his book. I’m more interested in characters that seem real enough to exist.
    The Fault in our Stars was not great, although the characters were intriguing and seemed real at least. Hazel is wonderful. Paper Towns is one of my favourite YA novels of all time and majority of its appeal is the discovering of the self and being authentic. It has a great message: you have to be who you are and be honest to others about it.
    You are definitely right, he should be whoever he wants and is and there should only be complaints if it’s harming others otherwise where is the logic in that?

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    1. I feel like all of his books are about being who you are and being honest about it. That’s one of the things I like about them. I also feel like they’re a lot about DISCOVERING who you are, which I think is great for young people. But I read the first one when I was already like, 25 or something.

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  4. The only John Green book I’ve read is TFIOS, and it was an okay book (don’t get me wrong–I flew through it so it was good), but I grew up when Lurlene McDaniel books were frequently being published so any book featuring a character with cancer or some similar disease felt like something I had read before. And I felt very little desire to pick up any other John Green book, at least until some of my book blogger friends wrote some great reviews about Turtles All the Way Down, and now I’m intrigued enough to give the book a try. But John Green is great as a person, and I love what he and Hank have done with DFTBA and VidCon, etc etc. I really try not to confuse books with the authors who wrote them. They can be two separate things. It’s much like when I’m playing D&D. There is a difference between what I know (player knowledge) and what is known by the person I play in game (character knowledge). It is a slight distinction, but an important one.

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    1. See, I find it hard to differentiate between John Green and John Green’s books. I think that’s one of the things I don’t care so much for about them. They’re so … him. And it’s funny, as I’ve re-watched old VlogBrothers videos, it’s funny how easy it is to tell which book he was in the middle of writing by what his interests are. Like, back in the Katherines days, he was obsessed with math.

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  5. hehe I really appreciated this post- I think the Vlogsbrothers are really decent guys. I used to be really big fans of theirs- and though I no longer watch their videos for various reasons- I do believe their hearts are in the right place (even if I may disagree with either or both of them on a number of particulars).

    I personally do not like John Green’s books- but I (hopefully) have only ever critiqued his work and not him as a person (it’s just a line I try not to cross in general) I just think it’s probably best to not try and make assumptions about the person behind the books, such as when you said some people say he’s “trying to hard”- cos really no one really knows how hard someone is trying and like you said it’s probably an effort to sound less smart for him 😉

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        1. I also don’t care for the political videos. I understand that as role models on the internet they feel obligated to inform people, but I want to watch them to escape all the terrible things in the news, not to be reminded of it. Also, recently John’s videos have been overwhelmingly philosophical, which is getting exhausting. I just want to see him draw on his face with sharpies.

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  6. I agreeee!! I like John Green.

    When I was reading Paper Towns, I was into psychology. Seeing the main character, Margo, then seeing her parents treat her makes me go ‘oh that makes sense’. I’m not blaming the parents or saying the main character did the right thing. For me, Paper Towns isn’t just about a girl trying to be herself, it’s more than that. It’s about parenthood, friendship, wrong decisions, and some other things which some of us struggle at. (Ofc you all probably know this already, I’m just excited to comment at a post about John Green. Haha)

    Ok now I’m lost.

    My point is, I don’t know for others, but I really like his novels. I once watched his speech at TED Talks and like what you said, them trying to make a better place. In his speech, he was encouraging everyone to be a learner. That talk matters to me, because no one has encouraged me like that. Haha.

    For many years I was stuck with people around me saying ‘get good grades, find a good job’. I never knew I could be better.

    John Green really made an impact in my life. I want to be a learner.

    Ok this is a way too long comment now. I really like your topic. Haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know John did a TED Talk! I’ll definitely have to watch it. His video encouraging kids to take ownership of their education is one of my favorites, and I always watch it if I need to be inspired at the beginning of a school year. I’m so happy to hear he had such an impact on you, and I know he would be touched to hear that too. 🙂

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