On the one hand, I had been utterly convinced I had grown out of John Green books. My increasing cynicism about the world kind of made me question my enjoyment of them in the first place. The boys especially, in a lot of his books, are pretty stupid. But on the other hand, if 15-year-old me found out 21-year-old me thought that she was gonna throw a fit. John Green, and his brother Hank (of whom I arguably have more fondness for) were an important staple of my teenage years. So I pre-ordered TATWD. And I’m happy I did.
It’s not like it’s my favourite book ever, or it’s changed my life or anything like that. But as I finished it I just felt incredibly satisfied, and calm, not just because I had two ginger kittens crawling all over me at the time.
It felt like a book John had always wanted to write. I could really hear him throughout the story, and most so at the end. The last few pages had me sitting with my younger self, curled up with a cat, watching youtube, hearing these people tell me it wouldn’t always be the way it was. It was a very real and honest story, with an honest ending.
My skepticism about Johns characters that had grown in the years between Tfios and now has started to dissipate again. I thought about it a bunch as I took the train home, and realised one of the reasons those books had always been so interesting to me is because it was a refreshingly honest take on being a ‘Young adult’. You are a bit stupid and pretentious. You want to romanticise everything and find meaning in everything. Johns writing can make you fall in love with that kind of mindset, but it also makes you think more about it, see consequences of it.
The road doesn’t always run smooth. But in a real way? I’m not sure what I’m saying here. But it was good.
Turtles appealed to me particularly because of the main character’s anxiety. I knew this would feature in the book before purchasing, another thing which drove me to pick it up. Aza’s anxiety manifested differently to my own in many ways, but the way in which she spoke about her thoughts read like my diary. John Green articulate feelings I struggle with, and I know thousands of others do, with perfect clarity.
The experiences Aza had beyond her anxiety were also refreshingly honest. Her anxiety was not a fancy interesting thing. And she grew to see how it went beyond her. She didn’t use her anxiety as an excuse to be shitty. She made an effort to change the behaviours, more so when she learned from her interactions with other people.
John has written a really lovely depiction of teens, and anxiety, which doesn’t glamorise either, but doesn’t shy away from all the things special about being in high school.
I may feel I have ‘aged out’ of Young adult fiction in many ways. But it turns out I still learn from it, I still love it, and when I read it I feel like I’m looking after my teenage self. Who really needed some good looking after.
Hope you’re all well, see below for aforementioned kittens