Thursday, June 5, 2014

John Green & the Beautiful Brain

From ALA to Bologna to BEA, the young adult publishing world has been abuzz with two notions/ideas/people:


Perhaps these two concepts can, at this point in the dire, scary, Amazon-Hachette battle scarred world of publishing, be conflated into one notion: HOPE.

This word, HOPE, brings me to the central topic in today's post--what I think is John Green's secret to writing books that capture hearts and minds of teens and tons of other-aged folk. His characters, despite diseases, emotional scars, loss and fear, offer readers a very special kind of hope.

Green's protagonists are ALL super-intelligent, puzzle-solving actors in their worlds. Their worlds are our world, dystopian only insofar as modern life is dystopian; oppressive in the ways as we oppress ourselves through negativity and lack of understanding. Green's characters testify to one of the great faith notions of our time: THAT INTELLIGENCE IS THE GREATEST GIFT and our minds hold the keys to living a full, rich life, no matter its length or economic circumstance or related heartbreaks.

And here's another piece of the fascinating phenomenon that reaches at least one apex this week with the opening of the movie, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Green himself is a sort of extension of his protagonists. Google him and learn about his complicated childhood, his love for his brother, his passion for learning, his genuine admiration for the talents of teens--those up-and-comers upon whose shoulders our world's future rests. Swing by one of multitudinous vlogs and allow yourself to be swept up in the wordplay, the ability to connect disparate ideas into some odd, temporal sculpture of words--of moment.

Rabelais...a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke...Neutral Milk Hotel...a book (and movie) title inspired by Shakespeare's Julius Caesar...and teens, lots of quirky, sharp-talking, dynamic, crazy, philosophical, often funny teens who draw connections between the confusing, bizarre, old, new, classic, imaginary, not-yet-invented images they encounter. Who make meaning.

Readers want to BE Green protagonists because they want to be smart enough to see the grace, elegance, and value in the world beneath the detrius of high school hallways, lost friends, even cancer. The hope that John Green depicts in his novels is in the beauty of the brain. 

It's hope enough to make a 46-year-old woman Google the term "nerdfighter." Need I say more?

DFTBA, everybody. D.F.T.B.A.

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