Monday, September 1, 2014

Is John Green Breaking Stereotypes Or Creating Them?

Paper Towns by John Green is the story of Quentin and Margo, old childhood friends who, when they were young, both discovered the dead body of a man in their town who had killed himself. This morbidly disturbing discovery ends up setting Margo up for an adolescent life of mystery, rebellion and a little bit of depression, and already this book sets the scene for another cliche high school story written by John Green. When John Green first started publishing his more original stories of a somewhat nerdy male protagonist secretly in love with a unique, mysterious, and emotionally unstable girl it was refreshing and non-stereotypical, however the current over repetition of this basic underlying plot has made the once refreshing idea into its own stereotype.

Initially the teen love stories were majorly compelling, they portrayed a stereotype breaking fantasy that maybe someday a really good guy will fall for the girl who isn’t the cheerleader or the nerd, but somebody completely different. While the generic girl in these John Green novels may be popular, they are a whole new genre. They are quirky, smart, beautiful, but also sometimes slightly suicidal. In the stories, particularly Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska, the boy protagonists realize that they are more in love with the version of the girls they want them to be, not the girls they actually are. Nonetheless, these stories mixed with new social norms in a modern teenage society create a need for girls to be quirky and unique, but in the end they all end up doing the same things as one another in this need to be just like a girl who doesn't even exist.

In Paper Towns, just like every other John Green book, the main character is constantly consumed by the thought of a girl he is in love with and seemingly spends his days entranced with thoughts of her. In the book, Margo is adventurous. She always just randomly goes on random trips to do cool things. However this time after leaving, Margo has been gone for a while and people are worried. Behind her she has left a trail of clues. Quentin figures them out enough to guess where Margo has run off to. His extremely extravagant act of running off to a different state to find her paints an unclear picture of what high school is really like and what people in high school are actually like.

The overall grandeur of this act, and the stereotype of the girls in John Green’s book is beyond cliche and ideas that were once breaking accepted truths are now mainstream due to his own redundancy of his own themes.


  1. I agree with you! I find the more John Green books I go through the more I realize that they're all pretty similar and with similar characters. Its almost like 'uniqueness' has become so common that its not even unique anymore.

  2. I agree with you, especially after reading Looking For Alaska! John Green does create these mysterious girls that the boy ends up falling for!

  3. I also agree! I think John Green is creating a new teen stereotype. He tends to romanticize some pretty serious problems and doesn't really address them. It kind of goes too far with the idea of being imperfect is okay in a way that supports and romanticizes serious physical,mental, and emotional issues.

  4. Having read both of these books, I totally agree with you while still thinking that John Green is a literary genius. I also think that the big grand gestures made by a lot of the characters in his books are extremely unrealistic and that things like that never actually happen in high school. The biggest romantic gestures that happen in high school is someone asking someone to prom or homecoming in a "cute" and "creative" way. The road trip that the main character takes in "Paper Towns" to find this girl that he loves is so far from what would ever happen in a high school that it makes the story more false than I would like to think it to be. You are also right about the redundancy of his characters in the way that the nerdy guy always likes the pretty, depressed, popular girl. I just don't think this happens in real life although it does make for some interesting characters. That may be the problem though, that real people just are not as complex as some of John Green's characters.