So John Green does this thing that feels a little weird, and I think it happens in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and other YA books — oh, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and it’s a thing I feel like a lot of parents of my age do as well, and I know that at times I am guilty of this as a teacher too. And that’s to try to be the voice in an adolescent’s life to offer up this moment of culture or experience or something else like this that is supposed to bestow upon them this shining moment of entry into the world of knowing. As a teacher it might be something like teaching a specific poem or book or viewing a specific film clip or something like that. And the goal is less about finding the right text or experience to help them understand something, but as a kind of gift. It’s an older sibling thing too.
Anyway, John Green does that with his books. He offers kids some kind of piece of cultural touchstone or experience or idea or something else where he gets to be the one teaching them about ____________. And sometimes it’s fine and sometimes it comes off as a little crass. Here it’s a little of both to have his two characters be charmed with themselves around the story, attributable to William James, about turtles all the way down.
This book, I imagine, could be refreshing for the right reader. And I get that. But it also feels oddly warmed over YA tropes left and right. And it has a little too much of the “Don’t you know rich people have feelings too” stuff that I don’t exactly need in my life right now.