I, like every other millenial on the planet, once went through a John Green phase. I read all his books, watched his vlogs, and even corresponded with him over email once, which was a big deal in my 18-year-old brain. He was big on Tumblr in 2012 when his quotes of unrequited love and hurricanes got popular and he released the A Walk To Remember-esque The Fault In Our Stars that taught the teens that making out in the Anne Frank house is totally romantic. Then, the Fault In Our Stars movie came out, and he sort of disappeared for a little bit. I mean, he was obviously still active on Twitter and Youtube, but he didn’t write books. That is, until yesterday, when he announced his new novel:
Turtles All the Way Down. October 10th 2017.
— John Green (@johngreen) June 22, 2017
When I first heard this, I thought, “Oh cool. The teens will be happy.” And then I read more into it. According to Penguin books, the story is about 16-year-old Aza Holmes (like Sherlock Holmes! Nice.) who is investigating a fugitive billionaire while battling her own mental health issues. This is when I got pretty skeptical, as noted below:
sure, you could read john green’s new novel from the POV of a mentally ill teen girl, or you could just…listen..to..mentally ill girls?
— nina braca~ (@oreokitty_) June 22, 2017
Yes, I understand that John’s main readers are teen girls, and I’m sure many of them will be very happy about this. Honestly, I will probably read it! I don’t mean to throw shade (or maybe I do, who knows) but my issue is this: Does John Green really know what it’s like to be a female teen with mental health issues? I know that John has experienced anxiety and OCD himself, but this just makes me a little iffy about the whole thing. Mental health issues are different for everyone, but does he really know what a teen girl is going through, even if she is fictional?
Writing about young girls with anxiety and mental health issues is ~trendy~ but when are we actually going to listen to them and start taking them seriously? I worry that this book won’t be realistic enough since it is being written by someone with such a different perspective. One of my favorite books growing up was The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which is a dark and depressing novel about a teen girl’s rape and its aftermath. It’s incredibly depressing, but it’s realistic because the author herself had been through a similar experience (which she wrote about in her memoir, Lucky), and she didn’t sugarcoat it at all. Sure, it was a fictional story with some supernatural elements, but the themes were the same: a young girl struggling to overcome trauma.
Teen girls and young women experience sexism and harassment every day, and it’s hard to understand what that’s like when you’re a man. Teen girls are complex and important, but how can you write from that POV if you never experienced that? I would never write about what it’s like to be a dude, because I just don’t know, and I wouldn’t want to write about what I don’t know. It kind of sucks that everyone is making a big deal about a dude writing about a teen girl’s struggles, when he has no idea what it’s like.
Again, I know that John Green has struggled with mental health and I don’t want to downplay that at all. You also don’t necessarily have to have experienced something yourself in order to talk about it. But teen boys and girls process emotions a lot differently, which just makes me nervous that this story won’t be an accurate portrayal of mental illness in young women. Besides, there are a ton of female writers out there who write about their struggles (like Susanna Kaysen, or Emma Forrest) who don’t get as much publicity as John Green. I mean, good for John to be doing what he loves and such. But maybe he can stay in his lane and write about teen boys for a little bit?
Are you going to read this book? Tell us in the comments!