Book Report

Book report: John Green is mean

On deciding that my latest story was best told as YA fiction, I began reading the category's recent classics since writers read. In these posts I'll talk about those stories and what they've meant to me. CAUTION: SPOILERS FOLLOW.



John Green

First impressions matter, and the first sentence of Fault jumps off the page. It also cheats, since it contains seven clauses. In writing, cheating works if done well, and Green does it very, very well.

Speaking of adverbs, he uses three -ly words in that first sentence. I'm sure this is a horror show to writers like Stephen King, but again, it works.

and they ensure we drive quickly, smoothly, and quietly

and they ensure we drive quickly, smoothly, and quietly

Another key takeaway for me was the narrator Hazel's voice. She speaks full and smart and pleasantly sarcastic, which is impressive for someone with terminal cancer. I liked her instantly. And while writing characters with strong voice has never been a problem for me, writing characters likeable to anyone but me has been. But I gained some insights on how to do it from here.

Which brings us to the co-protag, Augustus. He's charming a.f. I couldn't help but root for him. But I also remember watching Game of Thrones and instantly liking Ned Stark. That was an error. 

So I knew better this time. Don't care about characters--especially the likeable ones--because bad things happen.

And as I disclose in the title of this post, John Green is mean.

Because he made Augustus so damned compelling it still upset me when shit went sideways. Which taught another lesson: go for it. Don't be afraid to push every appropriate emotional button.

While I did love Fault, I didn't love everything about it--the cables suspending my disbelief weren't strong enough to withstand a couple of plot turns. But I checked in with several reader friends and they weren't bothered, so it taught me another lesson--don't be afraid to push the rational bounds if it makes for a better story. Sometimes you need to blur reality's edges a bit to reach the greater truth. And while I rooted every event and scene in my new novel based in reality and fact, I was more willing to walk along that edge.

It's clear why Green is among the overlords of the genre: Fault is a smart, powerful read, full of joy and angst. He takes readers on a ride and is happy to thrash them about on the journey.

All in all, I saw in Fault what a cruel person John Green is, and I rather enjoyed it.