John Green is a Poet

Reading one of John Green’s books is like sinking into a place completely real, where people throw up, break the rules, and wear on one another. But it’s also a dream world, because everyone is smarter than usual, and everyone is driven by their passions.

In 2015, I finished The Fault in Our Stars in a strip mall parking lot, and it felt right, because these were real people living ordinary lives, people who sat in depressing basements to have horrible meetings, people who felt the hot asphalt under them, drove cars with teenage abandon, and did the best that they could in their environment. So I cried in my car, because the book is sad, but in a cleansing way, in a way that justifies how absurdly popular the book is. And because it wouldn’t have been as good if I’d read it in the sunshine or cuddled into bed. Some books need to be read where they live.

More than that, I’m sensing that John Green’s books are entirely predictable. You know exactly what is going to happen, but it doesn’t matter. You know that it is still a story worth telling, a story you sometimes confuse, because there are moments when you can’t tell who wrote the book, John or his narrator.

I don’t know if John Green has published any poetry, but I do know he’s written it.

I won’t tell you what Looking for Alaska is about. I won’t tell you about the moments that particularly struck me, or how I first mistook it for 50 Shades of Grey at a church fair. I’m giving you poetry instead, lifted from the book and broken up into its lines.

“Page Eighty Two”

“Nothing’s wrong.
But there’s always suffering, Pudge.
or malaria
or having a boyfriend
who lives far away
when there’s a good-looking boy
lying next to you.
Suffering is universal.
It’s the one thing
Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims
are all worried about.”
I turned to her.
“Oh, so maybe
Dr. Hyde’s class isn’t total bullshit.”
And both of us lying on our sides,
she smiled,
our noses almost touching,
my unblinking eyes on hers,
her face blushing from the wine,
and I opened my mouth again but this time not to speak,
and she reached up
and put her finger
to my lips
and said,
“Shh. Shh. Don’t ruin it.”




John and his brother Hank keep a YouTube channel that some people have called the conscience of the internet, but which is also irreverent, introspective, and intelligent. Highly recommended.

Don’t forget to be awesome.

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