Oct 01, 11
Read on September 30, 2011
so, i like john green, i really do. i find his work to be intelligent and witty, and usually with a heart.
excuse the faulty parallelism there.
that said, he's highly formulaic. i've often bemoaned the fact that i fear he will become the male sarah dessen (another young adult author whose work is highly addictive, quick to read, and extremely formulaic). here, we have yet another socially awkward male protag who borders somewhere between asperger's and brilliant who is muddling through a lonely existence of nerd-dom in the last breaths of his high school career. there's a foul-mouthed best friend who reads more like a swingers character than a high school kid, an almost out-of-reach young lady who is both beautiful and complicated, and a road trip of self-discovery in a car most teen boys would be simultaneously horrified and proud to drive.
oh, right, that's because it's the plot of LFA and Paper Towns, and i'm guessing most other John Green novels.
do you see my point?
look, the dialogue is snappy, i laughed out loud during one scene in particular - which is more than i can say about most dessen attempts. there's something far funnier about green's writing style - his characters read like hyper-intelligent kids, the kids you'd want to hang out with if you were still in high school. but my big problem is: are a sprinkling of very funny scenes enough to save a plot you find utterly redundant?
i guess because i expect more of green than i do dessen, it's not. i don't want him to create another character who needs to traverse the southeast looking for answers to relationships he's too young to fully understand the emotional implications of (here, colin, who feels almost precociously autistic in his factual knowledge, needs to comprehend his latest breakup with K-19 through a language he is more comfortable with - math). the sideplots involving TOC (the other colin), hollis, tampon string factories, and hassan's laziness all sort of fall victim to that initial impulse and thus feel shallow.
the proverbial nail in the coffin for me was the epilogue during which a newly unsingle colin (will he date a katherine 20 or will he break his streak? i won't tell!) examines his evidence and discovers lo! and behold! he no longers needs math to rationalize his emotions; he has become a writer!
i don't know...like i said, green is too intelligent for that sort of anticlimatic conclusion, and, while endings are certainly not his strong point, i still expected more from him.