Since he began his writing career, John Green has specialized in the young adult (YA) genre, but with complex themes and telling stories, his novels can easily relate to any reader of any age.
Following the success of his most popular book Fault in Our Stars in 2012, readers everywhere have anticipated the release of his next book. Fans will not have to wait much longer, however. Over the summer, John Green announced that his new novel, Turtles All the Way Down, will be available on Oct. 10.
In lieu of Green’s new book, this list is here to provide an indulgence of his previous works before the new release — and it includes all the solo and co-authored novels that John Green has ever written.
6. An Abundance of Katherines (2006)
“You can love someone so much…but you can never love people as much as you miss them.”
As Green’s second book to ever be published, An Abundance of Katherines held an interesting concept. Protagonist Colin Singleton has only ever dated girls named Katherine, and has been dumped by nineteen of them. The concept of only being attracted to girls with a certain name was an interesting one, and was definitely one that kept the reader interested as Colin goes on his road trip to relieve the pain of his break-up with Katherine-19.
However, the second main element of the novel — Colin’s quest to create and apply a mathematical theorem to predict the future of a relationship — is what makes the story difficult to follow at some points. As Colin goes back to edit the theorem, the reader needs to be provided with a series of footnotes to understand the math. But considering the YA genre, it may be difficult to keep YA readers interested when they feel like they’re reading a textbook rather than a story.
However, if you’re the kind of reader that’s interested in math and scientific theories within a fiction novel, Green’s combination of academia and a plotline is well-crafted and makes for a read that is different than most fictitious stories.
5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010)
“‘I know it sucks, but in a way it’s good.’ He looks at me like I’ve just said something absolutely idiotic, which of course I have. ‘Love and truth being tied together, I mean. They make each other possible, you know?’”
Collaborating with YA author David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a story told from alternate perspectives of two teenage boys who coincidentally have the same name. It is interesting to see the two stories told from the contradicting personalities of the two Will Graysons, and to see how they become linked together by the end.
Humorous and heartfelt, this novel conveys a good message for LGBT teenagers, provides a perspective that is important in the modern world, and gives an insight into a community that deserves to be represented in novels and media.
4. Paper Towns (2008)
“All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm.”
Paper Towns follows quiet and passive protagonist Quentin “Q” Jacobsen, as he ventures on an 11-step revenge plan concocted by his collectively-chaotic next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman.
As one of only three Green books set in a high school, the reading experience of Paper Towns will make the reader feel like they’re experiencing high school all over again. It includes elements such as Q’s typical and (nearly) unobtainable crush, the two nerdy best friends, the shallow popular girl who eventually becomes an ally, and the classic anxieties that revolve around the anticipated prom. Of course, the twist to the high school setting is a barely legal revenge plan, a runaway crush, and the extraordinary chase to find her.
This novel is a wonderful example of how Green can cleverly combine a mundane setting with grandiose elements, and the result of the mixture is a strong and complex story. The only downside of this brilliant mystery novel, however, is that it is best enjoyed in the first read; it’s difficult to appreciate when reading it the second time around.
If you’re looking for a story with atypical romance, curious adventure, and suspenseful mystery, Paper Towns is the perfect fit for your fix.
However, I strongly advise first-time readers to avoid the film adaptation. After finishing the novel, the film experience will be much more than a disappointment.
3. Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances (2008)
“I always had this idea that you should never give up a happy middle in the hopes of a happy ending, because there is no such thing as a happy ending.”
Green collaborates with YA authors Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson to create a mystical holiday tale with three young adult romances that are all interestingly intertwined.
As the second story in the collection, Green writes an interesting tale, narrated by Tobin, who is with friends JP and the Duke, watching movies in the Duke’s basement on a snowy evening. After a strange phone call, the three friends abandon their plans and become dedicated to make it to the Waffle House.
Why would anyone be crazy enough to drive through three feet of snow to go to a chain restaurant? Because what teenage boy wouldn’t want to flirt with the fourteen cheerleaders who are stranded there?
The initial premise is shallow, but is mixed with a good sense of adventure when watching the teenagers experience three miles of snowy mishaps. However, the story is most interesting when considering the depth of the Duke’s character. She is always considered as “one of the guys”, which becomes a problem when JP and Tobin eventually forget she is female.
Her internal struggle with her friends is told in a subtle but powerful way, and the complexity of her character development is necessary to move the story along. Green provides an exciting tale with the right touch of adventure and romance, but its underlying message is what makes his story so compelling.
2. The Fault in Our Stars (2012)
“It is in the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But ourselves.’”
The popular opinion of many best-selling products is that they may sometimes be overrated. However, this book’s moving story, relatable characters, and quality of writing is deserving of its critical praise and massive success.
Hazel Grace Lancaster, sixteen-year-old diagnosed with thyroid cancer, is the perfect narrator for her star-crossed love story with former cancer patient Augustus Waters. Her down-to-earth personality mixed with Green’s classic wit even adds a few subtle laughs in the novel, transforming it into a tangible story rather than a romantic cliché.
Green’s exceptional writing will draws readers into the story and keeps them attached to the characters, which is why the heartbreak that eventually follows is severe. The novel compels its readers with a powerful emotional grasp that will make you cry, or break your heart at least.
As one of John Green’s tearjerker novels, The Fault in Our Stars is perfect for any reader looking for a moving story as well as a good cry.
1. Looking for Alaska (2005)
“When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.”
This is Green’s very first novel and was published over ten years ago, but the story of Looking for Alaska is still relevant regardless of its age.
As a loose representation of Green’s real high school experience, the story is told through the perspective of Miles “Pudge” Halter. Pudge is a teenager who is obsessed with learning about last words and inspired by Francois Rabelais’. He goes to seek a Great Perhaps at private boarding school Culver Creek High in Alabama, leaving his mundane Florida life behind.
While on the search for the Great Perhaps, he meets an interesting crowd of people. There’s his roommate, The Colonel, short-tempered, impulsive, and alphabetically memorizes world capitals. Lara Buterskaya, the sweet and shy Romanian exchange student. Takumi, the reserved and silent mother-effing fox.
And last but not least, the smart, cunning, and unpredictable Alaska Young, whom Miles begins to develop a crush for as soon as they meet. The novel follows the five characters participating in mischievous adventures around Culver Creek, most of which include a carton of cigarettes and a bottle of Strawberry Hill wine.
One of the outstanding elements that separates Looking for Alaska from Green’s later novels is the complexity of the combination in character development. Every main character succumbs to habits that are associated with teenage rebellion (smoking, drinking, and sex: The Triad, as the Eagle would say). But despite that, the characters don’t fall into the stereotype of teenage rebels. The teenagers are created to be well-rounded intellectuals who are aware of their academic abilities, while simultaneously learning from their outrageous life experiences.
Another aspect that makes this novel extraordinary is the clever ambiguity that Green adds into his novel. For example, the reader is not provided with a clear description of Alaska’s physical appearance. The only concrete information the reader has is limited to the color of her hair (mahogany brown), the paleness of her skin, and what she is wearing (i.e. her tight orange tank top and cut-off denim shorts the first time we are introduced to the character).
However, her beauty is described by other elements that are not necessarily seen, but otherwise sensed or felt. For example, how her intriguing scent is a combination of “sweat and sunshine and vanilla”, how her lips tasted like “cigarettes and mountain dew and wine and Chapstick”, and how her emerald eyes were the kind that “predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor.”
More importantly, the image of Alaska in this story is shaped by Pudge’s memory and experience, which also brings in the question of whether Alaska is only beautiful to the narrator, or if she is beautiful to the other characters in the story. The sense of uncertainty in Alaska’s appearance and beauty is just another brilliant addition to the mystery that is Alaska Young.
Looking for Alaska is deserving of the number one spot on this list because out of all of Green’s novels, this story is the most important due to its wide range of relevance. Dominant themes include loss, despair, uncertainty, and loneliness. While they are quite somber, they are important to discuss, especially to those who have ever experienced the aforementioned themes.
Green cleverly discusses the themes in his story by revolving around philosophical questions about religion and way of life, the most important being, “how will I ever get out of this damn labyrinth?”
By the completion of the book, Green provides a sense of ambiguous closure and leaves the readers wondering: did Miles ever find his Great Perhaps? Did the characters ever find the way out of the labyrinth of suffering? It’s for the readers to decide on their own; to quote John Green, the books belong to the readers.
John Green will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you think about your understanding of life.
He has a way of combining complex, adult themes into teenage stories; themes that no teenager should ever have to worry about. Though they are fictional, they are important stories to tell because these stories, as heartbreaking as they are, do happen to teenagers today.
Most importantly, Green’s writing allows teenagers and adults a passage of escape while providing the relevance that audiences require. Through the first person perspectives of relatable teenagers, he writes honest emotions without cliche. It is that honesty, in addition to his captivating stories, that make him a valuable contribution to the literary community, and to the world.
With a great selection of John Green books to choose from, we can’t wait to see what’s coming with Turtles All the Way Down.