I started reading John Green out of boredom and intrigue. It was during college, when my classmate brought his “Fault in our Stars” copy out and everyone was trying to get dibs on borrowing (it’s a Journalism class, so almost everyone was bookish). It was one of those days where you go to school just to be present but your mind drifts away some place else. I used to smoke back then, and cigarette breaks usually lasted for a whole period and extended until the next. But I’ve already reached the limit with absences, so instead, I decided to jump in the fandom and set a challenge for myself: to read the book in class for four straight hours.
I was tearing up in the classroom corner as I continually perused through the pages. No self-respecting millennial bookworm hadn’t read the novel. It was too heartbreaking to ignore. It was a story of triumph over death, not by an extension of life itself, but by living it, seizing it, and ignoring the imminent seizures and blood clots while touring Ann Frank’s House or having dinner in the center of Amsterdam. I have never had cancer and have not fallen in love with someone who had it, nor have I ever been to the Netherlands to meet my favorite author. Regardless, Hazel Grace, and Augustus are teenagers like I was at the time and if there is anything that literature has taught me, love stories, in all forms and plots, will always have the same denominator: Love.
Since then, John Green’s style has always been too good for me to ignore.
“Looking for Alaska” is a love story all the same, as all known John Green novels. But it was different, and it has always been my favorite novel by him. John Green’s protagonists are known to suffer tragic deaths, and he did not disappoint when he killed Alaska in the pinnacle of her youth: so young, so bold, and yet so troubled. It is philosophy communicated through wry humor, in middle school, in professors and dormitories, and in friendships not discontinued even by death.
Years after reading and rereading John Green, I felt nostalgic after the recent release of the movie adaptation of “Paper Towns.” It was the only novel I have not read from his collection. After a year since I last read him, I decided to read it, and in finishing Paper Towns now, and in mulling over what seem to be a maze of adventure and discovery of the self and of Margo Roth, I realized something my eighteen-year-old self could never imagine I would say: I have outgrown John Green. I do not mean to sound like a deviant, or a traitor to the millions of Nerdfighters I once associated myself with. But over time, when exactly I can’t really tell, I’ve stopped relating to the characters.
Maybe it’s due to maturity, or the lack of empathy with things I used to devote a journal to. At twenty-one, still young, self-centered, and unscathed from problems other than love, I feel like I’m seeking for something else. The question now is where to channel all my angst.
The links that bind me and John Green will remain unmoved, like mementos well-kept in a dainty museum. “The Fault in our Stars” and “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” along with other young adult novels I read, cannot be compared to old photographs neatly pasted in scrapbooks, for I do not intend to keep them in stuffy places, but would like to put them in a pedestal inside my brain. So looking back, I would remember my vulnerabilities and how I so carefully tended to my feelings. It would remind me, whenever I blindly ask people what they do for a living or spur a conversation by noting whether someone gained or lose some weight, that love and happiness are still the most important things in the world.