By Ellie Papadakis
Young adult (YA) author John Green spoke at Printers Row Lit Fest earlier this summer, where he received the Chicago Tribune’s Young Adult Literary Prize for his novel “The Fault in Our Stars (TFiOS).”
He was scheduled to speak in front of hundreds of people. But before the event started, Green told me he was really nervous. “So am I,” I said. Green smiled, shook my hand and said, “Well, I’m glad that goes both ways.”
TFiOS, a book about two teenagers with cancer, has drawn more attention than any of Green’s other books, including “Looking for Alaska” and “Paper Towns.” But he says he’ll only be able to think about the effect TFiOS has had on his life in retrospect.
“Right now it feels exciting but also a little bit—I use an adjective—‘freaky-outy,’ ” he said. “It feels a little bit freaky-outy just because I never anticipated this response to the book. But I’m so gratified that people are reading the book with such generosity.”
Green also has a YouTube channel called “Vlogbrothers,” which celebrates people who love to learn about anything and everything. His fans—all 710,000 of them as of late July—are called “nerdfighters,” furthering the idea that being smart and learning new things is always good. Through their daily interaction on the Internet, Green said his fans played a role in the creation of TFiOS.
“They give me thousands of comments every day that I can read so I can learn how you guys construct sentences and how you say things,” Green said.
As a thank you, Green promised his readers he would sign all pre-ordered copies of the book. He didn’t think he would have to sign that many books, but as attention to the book increased, Green found himself signing 150,000 copies three months before the release date.
Along with his brother Hank, Green started the Foundation to Decrease WorldSuck, an organization that collects money and then donates it to a variety of charities. The two raise money along with their fans and decide where the money will go. In the past, donations have built water wells in Haiti.
Because of his work, Green has become a role model, but he said he tries not to think about it too much. “I’m conscious of it, I try to be respectful of it,” he said. “But I try not to, like, wake up in the morning and say, ‘And now (I) shall be a role model.’ ”
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