Why John Green is Not the Literary Hero Everyone Thinks


Victoria Capobianco

Two of John Green's popular novels: Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars

Since the release of his debut novel, Looking For Alaska, John Green’s books have quickly risen to popularity and have soared onto teenagers’ bookshelves across the world. He is a New York Times best-selling author. His novels have been published in over a dozen languages across the globe. His books have even been translated into hit movies on the big screen. But are his stories truly worth all the hype?

John Green is a young-adult fiction author who has been deemed “The Teen Whisperer” by the New York Times because of his ability to combine humor with realistic characters that go through struggles not mentioned in common young-adult fiction.

If you are like me, you might ask the question, how could a 38-year-old man from Indiana possibly be the voice of a generation he has no relation to. My answer? He isn’t. Green’s novels  are overrated and do not embody practical modern teenagers.

Green uses the same formula for the protagonist in all of his novels. The main character is an isolated and awkward teen who, by some string of luck, gets swept off of their feet by a person who appears to be utterly extraordinary and unlike anyone they’ve ever met.

Take Green’s latest novel, The Fault in Our Stars, for example. The main character, Hazel Grace Lancaster, is a 16-year-old girl with terminal lung cancer. She is isolated from the normalities of teenage life because her cancer inhibits her from going to high school and other activities. Hazel spends her days watching America’s Next Top Model and her social life consists of going to a church basement for cancer support group.

Despite her isolation, Hazel meets the mysterious Augustus Waters; a boy at support group who instantly intrigues Hazel. This awkward teenage archetype can be applied to several of Green’s main characters such as Quentin from Paper Towns and Miles from Looking for Alaska.

Additionally, Green repeats a similar theme among his supporting characters in that the best friend is always a foil to the main character.  Characters Colin and Hassan from An Abundance of Katherines clearly demonstrate this trope. Colin has a huge thirst for knowledge and finds everything intriguing. He is constantly studying and works hard in order to avoid being another washed up child prodigy.

On the other hand, his best (and only) friend Hassan is a huge slacker. His lazy attitude causes him to continually put off applying for college and he even says that he is best at doing nothing. The two characters are clearly polar-opposites, and this same opposition can be seen through characters in several of Green’s other novels.

My complaint is that if John Green is really the voice of our generation, than why isn’t there more diversity among his character types? The repetition in main and supporting characters  sets up a standard for the teenagers of our generation. But, we are not all isolated teens who find some extraordinary love interest and have a best friend who has nothing in common with us.

It is impossible for Green to encapsulate an entire portion of society onto a few blank pages. Teenagers all have different personalities, goals, friendships, and livelihoods. Repeating the same old character archetypes does not do justice towards the complex lives of young adults in today’s society.

So do John Green’s novels make him truly worthy of his newfound position as the “Teen Whisperer?” To deem Green with this title suggests that we all follow one narrow path in our teenage lives. However, that is just not the case. Young adults grow and change everyday. We cannot be summarized in twenty chapters or less.