On Paper Towns, John Green, And Loving Like A Teenager

Paper Towns

Brace yourselves, world: another John Green movie is coming and it’s going to make you feel things (but maybe that’s not such a bad thing).

Like most twentysomethings who’ve ever picked up a book, I’m a John Green fan. I’m also not the first person to point out how important his books are for not just YA literature but literature as a whole. Green and authors like him?I’m talking Rainbow Rowell, Jandy Nelson, and Jennifer Niven?have reminded people that YA is nothing to scoff at. A book with a teenage protagonist isn’t inherently shallow, melodramatic, or unrefined. There is a singular, inimitable beauty to a well-written love story (or any story) about a teenager, especially when that story does justice to the emotional intelligence that teenagers are capable of having.

Nerdy book talk aside, there’s a reason I’m getting amped up about John Green. It felt like the world had just barely recovered from ugly crying over Gus and Hazel of The Fault in Our Stars when I first heard news of a Paper Towns movie adaptation. If the John Green Fangirling 2.0 hasn’t swung into full force yet, it’s about to, thanks to the release of the first full-length trailer featuring Nat Wolff and Cara Delevigne (who is somehow still as cool with an American accent).

While Paper Towns is decidedly more dramedy than full fledged drama, it’s not a long shot to assume that there’s going to be a whole lots of #feelings going on. Case in point: at the TK mark, Margo claims that “everything is ugly up close.” Quentin corrects her: “Not you.” (Did you hear that? It’s the sound of a billion Tumblr users adding that quote to their queue.)

It’s not the first time I’ve swooned against my will at a John Green quotation. It’s hard not to. There’s something about the unabashed sentimentality to Green’s writing that give me the same feelings I had when I had devastating crushes on boys in high school. (To clarify: those feelings are comparable to having my stomach tossed in a blender and my ribs exploding, but in the best possible way.)

One of the best (and most nostalgia-inducing) qualities of Green’s writing: his characters are consistently in awe of each other. They’re not the kind to half-ass their feelings. Hazel of TFIOS doesn’t have just a harmless crush on Gus; she’s astounded by him. Looking for Alaska‘s charismatic heroine isn’t just some hot girl at narrator Miles’ school; she’s the “hurricane” to his “drizzle”.

As tragic as Green’s stories tend to end up, I’m convinced there’s a lesson to be learnt here. Obviously, we can’t expect ourselves to be dumbfounded by every person we go on a first date with. We also can’t expect ourselves to be dizzyingly, deliriously in love with our partners every day of our lives. Relationships and dating are work.

What we can afford to do is to take a second to be amazed by each other. We’ve trained ourselves too well in being emotionally restrained and calculatedly indifferent that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to want to gush to our friends over just how cool our crushes are. That’s what it was like in high school, wasn’t it? Everything was more thrilling, more charged, more electric. We might know that the people we’re dating are kind or funny or clever, but how often do we really let ourselves be blown away by it?

Here’s to really noticing and being electrified by each other, even if that turns us into frantic, nervous, angst-ridden teenage versions of ourselves. It just might be treacherous to believe a person is more than a person (or so we’re told in Paper Towns). It’s even more treacherous, though, to let ourselves grow numb to the beauty of the people we’ve chosen to love.

Image via SlashFilm

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