When It Comes to Connecting With a Teen Audience, John Green Gets It


By Nicole Martineau, Associate Publicist


In case you’ve been living under a rock and are unfamiliar with the current media explosion that is the big-screen adaption of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, here’s a very brief synopsis of the book: Originally published in 2012 by Dutton Books, The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of Hazel Grace and Augustus, two Midwestern teenagers who meet at a cancer support group. To avoid any potential spoilers I’ll leave it at that.

To say this film has generated buzz on the Internet is an understatement. In fact, the film’s trailer is the most “liked” trailer in YouTube’s history. But for once it’s not just because of the media’s obsession with movie stars, but also because of the ever-increasing popularity of author John Green, and the special relationship he has with his readers.

As many of his fans will tell you, Green is not just an author. He is an online educator and one half of the Vlogbrothers, a YouTube channel he shares with his brother, Hank Green, which currently has over 2 million subscribers.Green has also garnered over 2.4 million Twitter followers, 1.4 million Facebook fans, and is very active on his Tumblr. This online presence has earned Green a huge following of tweens, teens and college students.

As the film’s producer Wyck Godfrey pointed out in an interview with Mark Healy of Bloomberg Businessweek, much of Green’s teen appeal lies in the credit he gives to his young audience:

“The intelligence with which John treats teenagers is refreshing to them. They’re not all just a bunch of YouTube-watching empty vessels. They’re asking big questions. They’re funny in the least expected ways.”

To back up that claim, Green explains to Healy why giving attention to this specific audience is so important to him:

For all the adult concern that Facebook and Instagram are warping their minds into echo chambers of self-obsession… I’ve found that if you treat them as if they are smart and curious, they will respond in kind. I think they’re so often undervalued by pop culture, particularly by the big corporations that churn stuff out for them. A lot of kids are really excited to be thought of as smart.”

In addition to intelligence, Green also keeps the emotional development of his audience in mind when writing a book in the YA genre. While reading a recap of a Q&A at an advanced screening of the film, one quote by Green stood out to me:

“[Young adults] are doing all these interesting things for the first time. Falling in love for the first time, grappling with grief for the first time, they’re also asking, separate from their parents as sovereign beings, questions about meaning and human life for the first time… They ask these questions without any irony and with real enthusiasm, which I think sometimes to us comes across as naivety, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s lack of irony, lack of fear. The same way they approach emotional experiences with a lack of defensiveness. I find that very appealing as character traits to write about because I’m also not particularly interested in irony as a device to get at meaning. I’m much more interested in stripping it down and finding a way to tell emotionally authentic stories that aren’t sentimental.”

It is always refreshing to see an author that truly understands their audience, and with recent news of book deals with various YouTube sensations, we can only hope that we will see more of this understanding when it comes to communication and writing in the YA genre.


Related: World Book Night 2014 Recap: ‘Givers’ Take to the Streets to Spread Their Love of Reading


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