Monday, July 28, 2014

A Little Teen Reading

teen reading groups, homeschool teens
Do you have teens who are readers?
Are you unimpressed with
Divergent, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and other post-apocalyptic drivel for teens?  Sorry, but I just don't care for these titles. The unrealistic storylines are blubbering mediocrity to me and I'm a bit tired of the money-making fandom that the books have spawned. Besides, there isn't much to them.
Are you looking for stories with some depth, humor, and insight? 
Read some John Green!
I am a huge reader and have been all of my life. I wish the kids were as much of a reader as I am, but alas. John has been reading quite a bit lately, though! This week he finished one book and began another! All without my asking him to read.  *grin* 
But I'm reading and I'm thinking about those adults who might be considering starting a reading group for and with teens. I think that John Green is the man to be reading right now. His books are so funny and deep that anyone can relate to them...the teen angst is standard-issue, as is the nerdy, struggling, extra-smart protagonist. The girls are generally sparkly, impossibly cool, and highly likable. And the author-cunningly-hidden-as-a-struggling-teenage boy on a personal odyssey brings such depth and humor, it's as though he is describing our own adolescence with the sharpest pen in the can.

His words have the power to change a person. 
At the very least, he will make you think.

John Green is, currently, the coolest guy on the planet for so many reasons. Have you seen his Crash Courses on Youtube?  You will love them!
A few months ago I read my first book by John Green, The Fault in Our Stars. Can I say read the book first? I know that everyone is crying at the movie theater, but the book is so remarkable... Any teen, cancer-free or not, will love the subtle themes and the not-so-subtle themes running through this book. Even the love story is palatable for male readers. I can't say that the dialogue is the greatest in this book; I think homeschoolers might relate to the conversations, but the awkwardness of adolescents is missing for the most part in the conversations of characters. BUT, it's a great read nonetheless. I was honestly drawn to the journey of each and every character in the book. Green has a fabulous way of making every character familiar, interesting, bright.
Next I read Looking for Alaska. This is when I started getting the idea that maybe John Green is trying to replace Holden Caulfield as the gawky and angsty teen-of-choice in teen fiction. Holden, in my opinion, was so numb and flat that I found the entire book by J.D. Salinger A Catcher in the Rye lacking in substance. I think that John Green might be giving the classic a run for its money with Pudge and Alaska. Alaska is that shinier-than-possible star that Pudge can only dream of until their relationship blossoms and forces Pudge to learn a bit about the reality of people who shine brightly.  Green has a magic way with words...he uses them like a paintbrush.
Paper Towns also kept me interested in this author. Again the main character, the relationship between smart, gracelsss, and angsty Q and his super-cool next door neighbor crush was a DELIGHT. I loved Q and how his road trip and super-sleuthing truly brings about a change, a crystal moment, an enriching journey. If a teen reader of this book would follow their interest and move onto some Walt Whitman, I think that John Green's goals would be fulfilled; Leaves of Green features prominently in this book and in Q's quest for the neighbor girl that he hero worships. It's not every day you can honestly see change happen in a major character like this. And it's not every author who can sketch out such interesting secondary characters! 

Now I am immersed in Green's An Abundance of Katherines. Colin, the staple super-nerd depressed dork of John Green's stories, has his unique problems with being a childhood genius and his struggles become a tad obsessive. Can I help it if I love these nerdy guys? Green draws them with some aplomb, one can't help but wonder how much of his writing is autobiographical. Green's road trip theme continues in this book as Colin and his bestie hit the road to relieve some of Colin's fixation on an ex.  So far, this book has the least SEX in it of all of the other Green books I have read and it might be the best fit for a less-liberal group read. But, of course, the books ARE about TEENS who are, in general, quite interested in the S word.
As for the existence of sex and language in these books - you can do it! You can get past the sex and the language because they are real, they are truly what is on the minds of some teens. I promise, no teen will be shocked; they might even be relieved to have all honestly out there. The characters are highly-relatable. I might be fangirling a bit, but I'm so grateful for fresh writing that really sings.
So, there you go. My brief recommendations for an All-John-Green Read Fest! I am enjoying the books tremendously and I think that your mature and interested reading-teens will dig them too.
Will I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Maybe! As long as the main character is not Holden Caulfield...

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