Opinion //

The fault in your writing, John Green

The writing of J*hn Gr**n lacks nuance, originality, and wit. For this, he must be held accountable.

Artwork by Hannah Rose

I’ve always admired a play on words. Whether that be my dad making some cringe-worthy joke, or a café like Sappho’s in Glebe that fuses the names of its dishes with classic texts, I love wordplay. Witty, intertextual and frequently cynical, the technique is one that I often employ in topical conversations regarding none other than international criminal and literary terrorist, John Green. 

Evident in this article’s title, this man is often the victim of my word play. An Abundance of Failures (An Abundance of Katherines), Looking for Quality Writing (Looking for Alaska), Snoozeville All the Way Down (Turtles All the Way Down) and so on. I’ve struggled with Paper Towns, because there is the teeniest tiniest ounce of flair and originality in his analogy of towns and paper. But this is far from earning his redemption. 

I have cleansed my bookshelves of the weight of his trashy fiction. Why not make room for literary masterminds like Katherine Mansfield and Agatha Christie and John Steinbeck? Or, if we wish to deviate from the typicality of the literary canon, leave shelves for new writers like Trent Dalton and Julie Koh, knowing full well that their careers in literature have only just begun. I don’t need to clog this valuable space with the works of a man who indulges himself in the worlds of angsty, hormonal teenagers. This man has been allowed to use the same sort of boy-meets-girl dynamic and ‘finding your place in the world’ plot like a broken record since 2005, when I was a mere three-year-old, unable to uproot this man from the literary landscape like a newly formed weed. 

I have cleansed my YouTube history and recommended feed of his incessant ‘Crash Course’ series which provides viewers, quite literally, with a crash course on different subjects like biology, world history, and even literature. This sounds all well and good, right? Especially since the channel is targeted at students who need a quick introductory snippet to a certain field. Wrong. The channel’s description states, “we believe that high quality educational videos should be available to everyone for free!”. They’re educational, and they’re definitely free, but they sure aren’t high quality. If this man was able to cease his habits of speaking one hundred miles an hour, making irrelevantly tacky jokes, and inserting niche aspects of his life into these videos, maybe the quality would improve. But nevertheless, I have blocked him from my YouTube. No regrets.

Let it be said here, Dear Reader, that I have only used this godforsaken man’s name twice in this piece: once in the title, and once in my opening paragraph. That is all. And, I have refused to address him as “the author”. No. For names and titles carrying the responsibility of empowering youth through the written word should be left unsaid if it is clichéd and uninspiring writing that fuels their career and drives devoted, open-minded readers like myself over the edge. 

Despite my personal efforts to end this man – without taking his life of course, only his literary license – being an ambition of mine, I have felt this way ever since I first picked up a copy of one of his wretched publications. More importantly, through writing this very article, through angry Facebook posts, and through conversation, I am fighting to eradicate any traces of his cult-like following. We know that ‘cult-classics’ often form out of a book, movie or band being labelled as bad at first, only later to be revered and revived with attention. But this ends here. The perpetrator of Young Adult Fiction as a sloppy, lacklustre genre must end here and now. This is an intervention for my generation. 

To support my case, I have drawn on some littles passages from this man’s most tolerable work, Paper Towns. I say this with a grain of salt, and I hope you take it with one too. He writes:

Tonight, darling, we are going to right a lot of wrongs. And we are going to wrong some rights. The first shall be last; the last shall be first; the meek shall do some earth-inheriting. But before we can radically reshape the world, we need to shop.”

Thank you, sir, for your confusing use of opposites which have no apparent meaning. Thank you for ripping off one of the greatest musicals of all time, The Little Shop of Horrors (and the Bible too, I guess). Thank you so very much for reducing social justice and advocacy as second-rate to retail therapy. 

Perhaps one of the most quoted lines from Paper Towns:

 “The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle … I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.”

Again, thank you for being creepy. For placing a young girl at the centre of a young boy’s fantasies. A young boy who is too emotionally and socially stunted to approach her and strike up a conversation like a normal person. Thank you also for failing to mention themes like family and courage and passion that are critical to a person’s life. To readership.

You may be thinking at this point, Dear Reader, that I have a lot of gall to challenge a man whose work has ended up in first place on The New York Times Bestseller List. But you have to remember that everyone makes it onto there. It’s a joke! This same man has won the Edgar Allan Poe Award. Edgar-fucking-Allan-fucking-Poe. Is there even a comparison to be made? I must be calm, Dear Reader, and leave you with a few words from other people I questioned about this man’s literary integrity. Perhaps then you will believe me when I say that there is serious fault in John Green’s writing and presence as a YA author. 

In two sentences or less, what are your thoughts on John Green?

“Cunt.”

“I think he has perpetuated insufferable teenage self-importance… for those growing up in the late 2000s and 2010s. He has the biggest fucking ego, is for-profit, anti-art, but his brother’s cool.”

“I don’t particularly like John Green, but I think he is particularly over hated by a certain Danny Yazdani. But Hank Green is my literal saviour, I love him with my entire soul and body.”

“I don’t have any opinions on John Green which shows how little I care about that man, but from an educational stance he definitely narrowed down the range of books kids from my generation read… he seemed like the definitive YA genre that we all had to read.”

“He has the power to show young adults how formative and engaging literature can be, in a world where emerging generations are seldom interested in stories told through ink and paper. That being said, his style is repetitive, and his form is predictable.”

Shall we go on with him?

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