At the recommendation of several of my students, I recently read two of John Green’s YA novels: The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down. Verdict: Generally very positive. In particular, Green convincingly presents both the characters and their issues.
The Fault in Our Stars has a reputation of being a depressing story. Despite that — or maybe because of that — it has a strong following among teens. And that description is only partially true anyway. Yes, of course the topic of children with cancer has to be at least somewhat depressing, and I’ve known too many students (and siblings of students) who have died of cancer for it to be possible to shrug it off. But a successful novel has to provide an uplift as well, as Green does that. It’s worth reading the novel if you work with teens in any capacity.
For Turtles All the Way Down we move from cancer to anxiety, including OCD and depression. More cheery stuff, right? It turns out that the author himself suffers from OCD, so he knows whereof he writes. As I sit home on a snow day writing this review, I am particularly struck by the fortuitous timing, as our professional development yesterday was all about anxiety in the classroom. I repeat my recommendation that it’s worth reading this novel as well if you work with teens in any capacity. Each of the lead characters in both books has a convincing voice, even though some amateur reviewers have complained that the characters seem too adult; I just have to assume that anyone who says that must have known only a narrow spectrum of teenagers, as there are plenty who write and speak with a voice that’s as adult as Green’s characters. In some ways both books are painful to read, but read them anyway. And maybe you’ll learn something about tuatara along the way.