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COLUMN: Stop unfairly criticizing John Green



Indianapolis author John Green released his newest book this month, "Turtles All The Way Down." Amidst the excitement surrounding the release, Green has been subject to much unnecessary critique. 

For example, some like to label him as problematic for his portrayal of women, illness and teenagers in general. 

These critiques completely miss the fundamental themes of Green’s books and unfairly blame him for readers’ simple and incorrect interpretations of his writing.

One of the biggest critiques for all of his books is that they are an unrealistic portrayal of teenagers. 

In each novel, the characters are contemplative and philosophical, talking to each other about concepts like the measurement of infinities and Schrodinger’s cat. It is an insult to teenagers to say that they cannot discuss lofty ideas about philosophy. 

Teenagers are smart. Green backed this up when asked about this specific criticism in an interview by saying, “The thing that bothered me about it… was that it was a bit condescending to teenagers. I'm tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren't smart, that they can't read critically, that they aren't thoughtful.”

Another critique often thrown at John Green’s novel is that they are sexist. 

One critique says, “Green… focuses primarily on nerdy, privileged white males who think that a conventionally beautiful (but flawed enough to be interesting!) woman will save them from their lives of mediocrity and boredom.” 

This goes completely against the themes of his novels like "Paper Towns." While the novel does feature a male protagonist who is fascinated with a girl, the entire lesson of the story is that a person cannot save you. 

Green said on Tumblr, “Have the people who constantly accuse me of this stuff read my books? Paper Towns is devoted IN ITS ENTIRETY to destroying the lie of the manic pixie dream girl; the novel ends (this is not really a spoiler) with a young woman essentially saying, “Do you really still live in this fantasy land where boys can save girls by being romantically interested in them?”

After the release of "The Fault in Our Stars," Green was accused of writing a book that romanticizes illness, but again, this is fundamentally deconstructed by the book itself. 

The characters discuss how their own illnesses are fetishized with sarcasm and vitriol. Also, it is completely unfair to suggest that those who are ill should not be able to fall in love.

Green’s newest novel, "Turtles All The Way Down," discusses illness in a new and refreshing way. The main character, Aza, suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. 

Green used his own experiences with these mental illnesses to portray them with raw and unromanticized truth. He perfectly constructs the inner monologue of anxiety and intrusive thoughts that speak true to anyone else who suffers from these mental illnesses. 

Aza is not magically saved by a boy and, in fact, realizes that no relationship will ever change or automatically fix her. The story is beautiful and incredibly relatable to anyone who lives in similar circumstances.

While many young adults may find that they are above reading John Green’s novels, I recommend looking past these shallow criticisms and reading his newest book. 

It is incredibly truthful, introspective and beautiful, and it will hopefully change the way that many people view Green as an author.

emmagetz@indiana.edu
@emmaagetz

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