Friday, 11 July 2014

The John Green Dilemma


This is something I've been pondering over for a while. It an issue of popularity in the book world; the thing that makes someone's heart race when they open an new book and run their finger over the neatly printed text. Or - on a whole new level - the thing that creates mass hysteria when a new film adaptation is announced or released. 

I'm not quite sure what that thing is, it could be a number of factors. Perhaps it's the quotable dialogue, perfect to splash all over various social media *cough* tumblr *cough* or the Hollywood film star esque characters who have stepped right out of a erm... book or teen movie. Or maybe it's the general portrayal of teenage life. I've brushed upon this issue before  here: but that sort of turned into an anti John Green club, about a year ago. While I'm still not a overly huge fan, John Green amongst other similar writers and their writing have become a valuable tool to me. It's a way to see what makes a section of the publishing industry tick and in JG's case, the unfolding of a hugely popular film franchise. 

This is in no way just John Green either; I respect him alot as both a person and a writer. But my issue is this, which I probably haven't articulated very well yet: 

'Is JG's style of YA 'realism' the only way to become popular in the contemporary YA fiction world?' 

If the answer is yes, this raises concern for the unfathomable amount of budding writers across the globe. It's a quick way to drown creativity, originality and individuality. Not the best message to be giving out. Sure, there's a massive variety of both published and undiscovered YA fiction out there - thousands of manuscripts get sent to publishers every day - and I also understand that genre popularity goes through phases. First it was Twilight and all things vampire, then the 'Beautiful Creatures' era, then dystopian trilogies were popping up all over the place. But this is different, it's a portrayal of teenage life being thrown at an impressionable audience and writers alike. 

I guess this issue could be applied to all kinds of pop culture. Artists changing their sound just to bring about chart success  or YouTubers producing generic content they're not comfortable with. It can even go as far as un-originality being mistaken for plagiarism. A fantasy writer, Tim Bowler, recently addressed a question from a fan in his Bolthole Bulletin online, asking if he took inspiration from or 'borrowed' other writer's ideas. He laughed: of course he takes inspiration from other writers but 'borrowing' ideas is plagiarism. He said he wouldn't feel the same satisfaction of reaping rewards from stolen ideas than his own, and that's something that I wholeheartedly agree with.

The thing is, I'll probably continue to guiltily lap up these kind of books. But I guess what I'm trying to say is this - I hope it doesn't affect mine or other's writing. It's okay to like and and take inspiration from a trend (unless you're completely hipster) But I hope that especially young writers don't feel like the only way to become popular is to copy - John Green or otherwise. We have one of him, and everyone has something truly awesome to offer, in the literal sense of the word. Let's get out there and show everyone.

On the other hand, I just really hope this is a typical teenage phase. 



  1. Wow this is a really interesting concept I've never considered before. Thank you for making me aware of it :)
    Oh and 'unless you're completely hipster' ahhaha, love it :)

    1. Thanks :D Glad you enjoyed it, I shall check out your blog xx