John Green is one of the best known young adult novelists. His novels consistently become cult classics and are quoted on social media sites such as Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest. He was born in Indiana in 1977, then later attended preparatory school in Orlando where his inspiration for Looking For Alaska originated. Green was heavily bullied throughout school; perhaps this is what led him to write about the teenage experience in his adult life. Green is also a popular Youtube figure, involved in several channels such as Mental Floss and the VlogBrothers. He shares a podcast called Dear Hank & John with his brother, as well as a solo podcast called The Anthropocene Reviewed. He’s currently working on his first nonfiction book.
1. Looking for Alaska
Green’s first novel depicts a group of teenagers at a boarding school in Alabama. Miles Halter is a boy obsessed with people’s last words. He moves from Florida to Alabama seeking “a great perhaps,” or a new adventure. He soon becomes amalgamated with life at the boarding school, making friends quickly and participating in elaborate pranks. Amongst his new friends is Alaska, an adventurous girl who is hyper yet weighed down by sadness. Miles is fascinated by her, despite the fact that she has a boyfriend, but when tragedy befalls the school, the entire student body feels its consequences. Green’s goal with this novel was to encapsulate the pain of being a teenager, and Looking for Alaska achieves this perfectly. A Hulu adaptation was released in 2019.
2. The Fault In Our Stars
Hazel Grace Lancaster is terminally ill and, as a side effect, is depressed. She’s given up, resorting to rewatching America’s Next Top Model and rereading her favourite novel. To appease her concerned mother, she goes to a cancer support group where she meets Augustus Waters. Gus is instantly taken with Hazel and wants to get to know her, but Hazel doesn’t want to make meaningful connections when she could die at any moment. But Gus is adamant that you can still live even when you’re dying. The Fault In Our Stars is a heartwarming read about the beauty of life in the midst of tragedy. The film adaptation hit cinemas in 2014.
3. Turtles All The Way Down
Turtles All The Way Down was Green’s first novel following the massive success of The Fault In Our Stars. It follows Aza, a 16-year-old suffering with OCD and an anxiety disorder. She is particularly affected by her fear of the human microbiome and potential infection. When the father of an old friend goes missing amidst fraud charges, Aza’s best friend Daisy persuades her to join her in finding the missing billionaire, a feat with a potential reward of $100,000. This quest leads Aza down a path of hardship and anxiety, but is it worth it for friendship, and potentially first love? Green wrote this novel as fiction but drew heavily from his own personal experience with anxiety.
4. Paper Towns
This 2008 novel follows Quentin and Margo, best friends who have become somewhat estranged in the transition from childhood to high school. Quentin has always been in love with Margo and is pained to see her date other boys at school, living next door without ever speaking to him. However, after a betrayal in her relationship rattles Margo, she approaches Quentin one night to help exact her revenge. Quentin believes they’re getting their friendship back on track, until Margo fails to turn up in school the next day and effectively vanishes into thin air. Unable to let it go, Quentin will stop at nothing until he discovers what happened to Margo. Paper Towns, like Green’s other novels, is all about respecting the teenage experience, which often feels heightened in the moment.
5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a novel that splits between two different characters called Will Grayson. When the two collide one night in Chicago, their worlds intertwine in unexpected ways. The first Will Grayson is straight, crushing on a girl in school and is best friends with the fabulous Tiny. The second Will Grayson is homosexual and suffering from depression. The chapters vary in tone to differentiate between the two Wills; this novel was co-written by David Levithan, another YA novelist, who wrote the perspective of one of the Wills while Green wrote the other. Although this novel has the same sparkle as Green’s other novels, it didn’t perform quite as successfully as his other work.
6. Let It Snow
Let It Snow is Green’s collection of Christmas short stories. “The Jubilee Express” focuses on Jubilee, who is shipped off to spend Christmas Eve with her grandparents away from her boyfriend Noah. “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” is about Tobin and his friends, who are lured away from spending an evening watching movies to spy on cheerleaders in the midst of practice. Lastly, “The Patron Saint of Pigs” focuses on Abbie, who has just split up from her boyfriend and is feeling the effects of first heartbreak. This is a seasonal read—it won’t have the same impact if it’s read outside of the holidays, but it is just as compelling as Green’s other novels.
7. An Abundance of Katherines
An Abundance of Katherines was Green’s second novel. It is a wacky tale following Colin, who has dated a total of 19 girls named Katherine in his life. After the last Katherine breaks up with him, Colin decides a change is needed and goes on a road trip with his best friend Hassan, hoping to achieve what he considers a “eureka” moment. On his travels, he meets Lindsey, the first girl he’s ever liked who isn’t named Katherine. Green’s overview of the teenage experience emerges throughout this novel, however it isn’t rated as high as his others perhaps due to the highly unlikely premise.