Greetings, fellow literary people!
This week, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS author John Green introduces serious questions about life into young adult literature. Also, Jennifer becomes a ROBO-PANCREAS NERDFIGHTER and wears a fox hat on her head!
WARNING: Be aware of spoilers. And the phrase “motherfucking fox.”
Good morning Hank and John, it’s Monday, and I’m pleased to announce my public dedication to ending world suck by becoming a ROBO-PANCREAS NERDFIGHTER! Guys, I apologize for taking so long to go public with this.
I became a fan of John Green’s work in 2007 when the person who inspired a character in my novel recommended I read John’s book “Looking for Alaska.”
This book took some heat a few years back due to its frank and realistic take on teenage sexuality. Parents and teachers who viewed the material as inappropriate got together and managed to ban the book in several school districts – afraid that it served as a gateway to sexual activity and general immorality.
However, those who view Alaska as adolescent smut fail to realize not all teenagers are low-life, bandwagon-jumping, mindless children.
Many teenagers are completely capable of critical thinking, and in reading Alaska, can acknowledge that sincerely loving someone is more fulfilling than sexual activity.
For example, Pudge can’t fully understand the consequences of his or anyone else’s actions – including sex. He demonstrates very important human struggles, like wrestling with forgiveness and being forgiven, or being infatuated and confused with people or events or things, all at the same exact time, and all for complicated reasons.
Another novel by John Green, Paper Towns, deals with mature issues that some adults view aren’t “age appropriate.” When high school senior Quentin realizes he cannot be with the girl he loves, we aren’t witnessing arrogance or laziness or horniness. It’s about a kid realizing that his shinning perception of someone cannot fulfill the complexity of all who that person is. Loss of innocence is a disappointing and great obstacle, and there’s no going back once it’s gone.
One of my favorite scenes from John’s most recent novel The Fault in Our Stars — aside from when Mr. Lancaster reflects Carl Sagan’s observation that we are the Cosmos experiencing itself — is when cancer patient Augustus attempts to act like a regular teenager (which, in his case, is buying a pack of cigarettes) but his failure to do so offers an honest and brutal slice of mortal humility. It’s true: We cannot always conquer our hardships, but The Fault in Our Stars teaches us about perseverance.
And for that, and other misconceived reasoning, The Fault in Our Stars is on the banned books list for being too deep for its age group (crickets) really?!
Here’s my argument: John Green introduces serious questions about life into young adult literature. This includes inner-conflict, ethical dilemmas, and this bottomless gulf between private desire and the life we feel we ought to live — among countless other struggles humanity deals with.
And although John challenges young adults to contemplate big questions when these kids are highly susceptible to rebellion — that’s how it should be. What makes us uncomfortable inspires contemplation, action, and change. Good writing reflects this because young adults, in fact, experience very uncomfortable and enriching things.
Folks, abstinence from knowledge isn’t the answer. Teachers and parents should encourage young people to investigate their thoughts and feelings and values and feel empowered by the many conclusions drawn from life experiences and other copious mediums.
Please, go forth and bridge gaps. Survive the labyrinth, believe that love can outlast our numbered days, and allow your outer-shell to crack so your most authentic self can shine through. Hank, John, I’ll see you next Monday.
New episodes are periodically posted on Mondays.