Since the release of his first novel, Looking For Alaska, John Green has become immensely popular with teenagers. His books have turned into major films. He was even dubbed “The Teen Whisperer” by The New Yorker. But are his novels truly worth all the hype?
No, absolutely not. John Green is, in my unpopular opinion, extremely overrated. I refrained from using extremely in the title, as it would infuriate most of the teenage population even further, but the ugly truth is that he is. He uses the same formula for his protagonists and his supporting characters in all of his novels. The main character is an isolated and awkward teen who just happens to meet an extraordinary person that changes their life, and the supporting character is the complete opposite of the protagonist.
Take The Fault in Our Stars, John Green’s most famous novel, for example. The main character, Hazel Grace Lancaster, is a 16 year old girl with terminal lung cancer. This prevents her from living a normal teenage life and she becomes awkward and ostracized. Her only social life is going to a church basement for cancer support group. Despite her isolation, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, a boy at the support group who instantly intrigues Hazel. This awkward and specific teenage interaction is shown by many of the main characters such as Quentin from Paper Towns and Miles from Looking for Alaska.
Additionally, his supporting characters are always the exact opposite of the main characters. In Paper Towns, Quentin, the protagonist, is young and shy but Margo, the supporting character, is the most popular student in high school. In An Abundance of Katherines, 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. But, on the other hand, his best friend Hassan is a huge slacker, and his lazy attitude causes him to delay applying for college.
My major complaint is that if John Green is really the voice of our generation than why isn’t there more diversity among his characters? The repetition in main and supporting characters sets up a standard for the teenagers of our generation. But we’re 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 to represent an entire generation with one formula. Teenagers all have different personalities, goals, friendships, and lives. Repeating the same old character types does not do justice towards the complex lives of young adults in society.