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John Green

 

By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  Part of my job is to keep track of the national bestseller lists. Every week I log in to various book review sites and news sources and evaluate the lists for books that I know will be in demand by our patrons. Some-times itís easy to predict the lists; a new James Patterson or Nora Roberts is bound to debut right at the top. Other times, Iím pleasantly surprised when a first-time novelist breaks the top 10.

  For the past year or so, Iíve been watching an interesting trend on the Young Adult bestseller lists. YA lit is one of the hottest areas of publishing, and if you think itís all teen drama and angst, think again. Novels for young adults are among the best-written and most complexly plotted books being written today, with lots of crossover appeal for adult readers.

  What has really captured my attention, though, is one name: John Green. Week after week, month after month, that name occupies at least three of the coveted spots among Young Adult Fiction bestsellers as determined by the New York Times.

  Who is John Green? Itís an utterly ordinary name, so itís no surprise when an Internet search provides millions of results, but itís very revealing that all the top returns are about the young adult author John Green. Heís YA literatureís version of a rock star. Green is a native of Indiana, spent his childhood in Florida, and attended boarding school in Alabama. He has worked as a book reviewer, educator, and chaplain in a childrenís hospital, where he was inspired to become a writer.

  His first book, Looking for Alaska, was published in 2005 and won the American Library Associationís Michael L. Printz Award, given each year to the author of ďthe best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit.Ē It was also a finalist for the Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers. The story follows Miles, a shy, scholarly and bored teen who leaves home to attend boarding school in Alabama (based on Greenís real-life experiences). He hopes for challenges and adventure, and finds all that and more when he and his classmates get caught up in a campus-wide ďprank war.Ē

  His second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was published the following year and was a runner-up for the Printz Award and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Recent high school graduate Colin considers himself a washed-up child prodigy who may never accomplish anything great. He has also been dumped by 19 girls Ė all of them named Katherine. He decides to make one last effort to achieve greatness, by designing a mathematical algorithm to predict the success or failure of relationships, and by taking a road trip with his best friend. Greenís sense of humor shines here, with word games, puzzles, historical trivia and math challenges woven throughout the story.

  A slightly eerie mystery, Paper Towns, was released in 2008. In 2010 Green collaborated with another YA literary giant, David Levithan, on Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Greenís most recent book, inspired by his time working at a childrenís hospital, is The Fault in Our Stars, published last year.

  Greenís writing style and characters are sometimes gritty. I wouldnít recommend his books for younger teens, but older teens and adults will find much to admire in his works. His quirky characters, inventive plots, funny but poignant characters and ear for authentic teen dialog will guarantee he stays on the bestseller lists for a long time to come.

 

 

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