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TURTLES, STARS & PAPER TOWNS

I’m not ashamed to admit that I read young adult fiction and here’s why …

  • It tackles serious issues but in a hopeful way
  • It’s well written and entertaining
  • It gives readers all the feels
  • It's imaginative and plays with format
  • The stories are so good, they’re being made into movies and TV shows

After listening to John Green’s latest book Turtles All the Way Down, I’m suffering from a serious case of book hangover. Kate Rudd brilliantly narrated the emotional rollercoaster that focused on mental health, friendships and the unforeseeable future. But mostly, the story shouts life can be difficult but we can all get through it. 

Okay, I have another admission — I’m a huge fangirl of John Green — but with good reason, obviously. He’s a New York Times bestselling author, was named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine and has written six novels with half of those being adapted to movies. 

We actually met at the movies, John and I. (yes, I know it’s wrong to use his first name according to AP style but you try arguing with my heart and see who wins) The movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars was my first glimpse into his fictional world. In a story brimming with mystery, humor and lots of love, Hazel and Augustus taught us that life is made up of a million moments worth noticing, much like a night sky filled with stars. Want to take a guess to my reaction? Yep, violently sobbed — I’m talking gigantic pools of salty sadness.

So, now I’m obsessed with John. I’m reading his books. I’m googling his name. I’m watching his YouTube channel. Wait, he has a YouTube channel. Yep, I stumbled across it and discovered he has a quirky brother named Hank. The two stopped texting for a whole year and started talking through videos on on their Vlogbrothers channel.

The Green brothers have a remarkable teen following on their vlog. At first, I watched them with my college-aged daughter, but then I found myself hitting subscribe and binge watching. They cover topics from atomic energy to soccer. Anyway … back to John’s books.

Part of me will always be that insecure, goofy teen — the girl who was bullied, who drove the oldest, junkiest car you can imagine but still dreamed about dating the hottest guy in school. Maybe that’s why I embrace John’s work so much. Within the words and pages, I see glimpses of my friends and myself in his characters.

Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.

John Green

When Hulu announced they were making Looking for Alaska into an eight-episode miniseries, I eagerly jotted it down in my planner so I wouldn’t forget. So while I might still feel like that 16 year-old with big hair from the 90s, I don’t have her memory. UGH, getting old, so uncool. 

As my book hangover symptoms linger — that hollow, empty feeling in the chest, the wish to sit in the dark and do nothing, the inability to pick up another book — I’m left craving more of John’s work, new work. By the way, Turtles All the Way Down is being adapted to film by Fox 2000, so we have that to look forward to.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for an extraordinary love story, check out Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott. The story is a captivating tale of a real-life Fault in Our Stars couple that is both beautiful and hopeful as well as problematic and tragic.

If you’re one of the adults who thinks other adults shouldn’t read YA or you’re a fellow YA superfan shamed into hiding, hear me out. Having studied the classics in high school and college, I consider myself an engaged reader and young adult fiction is just another category.

“Young adult” and “adult” are publishing labels — nothing more than classification and marketing tools. Writers don’t set out to write books for a specific audience — they’re trying to tell a compelling story.

Young adults, older adults — we all live stressful lives and we need the escape books provide. Our kids get lost in their devices. What if reading YA can help bridge the gap by giving us something to discuss?

Don’t judge other readers on their book choices. John once said, “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.”

Looking for Alaska
An Abundance of Katherines
Let it Snow
Paper Towns
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
The Fault in Our Stars
Turtles All the Way Down

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