Crash Course Shows Secret to Green's Teen Characters
December 04, 2013
I'm quickly becoming a big fan of young adult author John Green.
I like the way he writes teen characters -- especially smart ones. They're funny without being too snarky, cool in their own dorky ways, and not such smarty pants as to deserve "kick me" signs on their backs. They're smart, but they don't have all the answers.
In Green's The Fault in Our Stars, cancer survivor Augustus Waters faces his uncertain future with bravado and an unlit cigarette. Augustus' girlfriend and fellow cancer survivor Hazel Grace Lancaster's obsession with reclusive Dutch author Peter van Houten and his masterwork, An Imperial Affliction, could qualify her as a first-rate stalker type if it didn't seem so normal for her. Then, there's Colin Singleton, the anagramming prodigy in Green's An Abundance of Katherines, who, if he would just stop thinking so much, might understand a whole lot more.
So how does Green write these teens so well? Just tune into YouTube and you'll get a clue.
Green and his brother, Hank, are the founders of Crash Course, a YouTube channel devoted to videos explaining all sorts of things in science, history, ecology, and English literature. John handles the history and literature. Hank handles the science.
At the urging of my daughter, who turns to Crash Course for homework help, I watched Green's Crash Course video on the history of World War II. After listening to him explain the whole war in about 14 minutes, complete with snarky remarks and insightful analysis, I realized Green probably resembled his characters when he was younger -- smart, funny, and more than a little bit nerdy. He knows how to talk to teens because, I suspect, he never totally grew out of that phase.
If you have 15 minutes, tune into Crash Course and let the Green brothers teach you something new. If you have a few hours, pick up one of Green's young adult novels and meet some smart, interesting people.