First Lines: The Great John Green Re-Read Project 2018, Part 1

My current night-time reading project is revisiting all of John Green’s novels in publication order. Since encountering them nine years ago I haven’t gone back, and I wanted to see how they’ve held up. In part one of this probably two-part series, I’ll start with the first three, Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns.

I first read these novels between September 2009 and February 2010. To give you some context: in September 2009 I was 29, I was living all by myself in a smallish, rent-controlled apartment just outside the city center of Amersfoort, I still didn’t know that the job I had was about to disappear on me and that I’d be working for the biggest online retailer in The Netherlands for the next five to six years.

Upon re-reading these books in 2018, I was 38, married to The Missus, living with her and a 17-year old Kid Awesome (who, when he doesn’t try to drive me stark-raving mad with his pubescent adolescing, I love to pieces) in our own apartment on the outskirts of Amersfoort’s lovely historic city center, I had switched jobs again, and was two aorta-related surgeries in the space of two years down the road from being relatively in prime condition.

You could say things changed a bit. And you’d not be wrong. But with that shift, this second reading left a whole different impression on those books.

Don’t get me wrong: I still think they’re pretty awesome. They’re still clever and smart books about young people finding out themselves, the world and their place in it, and that sort of stuff still ticks a lot of my boxes. And oh boy, while I don’t usually go looking for high-school lit class stuff like themes and symbols and deeper meanings, do they drip with them, or what?

Without turning this thing into some deep psycho-babble analysis of me, let’s just say that I am not in the same place I was nine years ago. As such, I am kinda over that whole Manic Pixie Dream Girl, You Will Meet This One Girl Who Will Totally Change Your Life For The Better™ fantasy thing I had going on inside my head. Green has been accused of using this trope, which is fairly unfair, as at least Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns try their darnedest to deconstruct this. No one is responsible for your life but you, you know?

So, looking back at my fairly gushing reviews, well, I know where I was coming from, but oh boy.

Book read
John Green — Looking for Alaska
First line
The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party.
Book read
John Green — An Abundance of Katherines
First line
The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from highschool and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.
Book read
John Green — Paper Towns
First line
The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.