John Green is world-level famous, and has a giant number of fans, self called nerdfighters. I had encountered JG before in gifsets and quotes and thought he wasn't my cup of tea. So I let that hype train pass. I then found him on crash course and mental floss, and thought his videos were funny and highly informative, but I still wasn't convinced to read his books. Then I also watched part of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries because how could one not watch it and realized that Hank Green was his brother. So I went to see what vlogbrothers channel was all about, because the brothers Green seemed something special. And it was awkward and funny and great. And I thought that maybe John's quirky monologues would find their way into his books, so I, being a sucker for witty banter because I grew up on Gilmore Girls, couldn't pass up the opportunity to read witty dialogues. But I still wasn't convinced enough to buy his books, since I'm a bit of a snob at heart, and my library doesn't carry JG books. So John Green and me were at an impasse until I got Paper Towns as a Christmas gift. I waited until summer because this book looked like a summer book (and because a movie was happening).
And here we are, after having run out of excuses. The first thing I have to get out of my chest, being the little snob that I am, is that John Green doesn't write high literature. His prose is not something to contemplate, breathless. But the witty banter was there, the pace was quick and I was entertained. Even more, I was rewarded for watching those vlogbrothers vids, because they are an unexpected window into John Green's creative process. I played a game of spotting the references to his research or to real events of his own life in the pages of this novel. It was cool, like being an insider, and made the world of Paper Towns a lot more encompassing and real.
The characters in this book could be any group of real life teens. some were nerds and some were popular, most had sex on their minds. All of them were awkward. They were, in spite of what may seem, believable. One of the assets of John Green is that he accurately remembers how it was being a teen.
What I wasn't expecting was the seriousness underlying the apparent banality. I was expecting a fun road trip with friends, not a study of expression and perception by others. Of depression. A deconstruction of the manic pixie dream girls, which is one of the most pervasive and hateful tropes ever written - I like this story (500 days of summer comes to mind) and like reading iterations of this story. Margo has the right to be selfish and even hateful because she is a real person. She isn't likeable, but I don't see why she should be. That's the point of the book.
Isn't it also that on some fundamental level we find it difficult to understand that other people are human beings in the same way that we are? We idealize them as gods or dismiss them as animals.
It's true that the ending was anticlimatic, but it was the perfect ending for this book. More mature than I was expecting. John Green definitely gets teens.
Verdict, even though I guess everyone already knows how they feel about John Green: John Green seems to be polarizing, and readers expects too many different things from his books. I liked it way more than I was expecting. I will give my two cents: read his books as if they weren't written by anybody in particular.