--The Fault in Our Stars
This is a book that's being reviewed far and wide all over the universe if you'd like to read more about it. It's currently #1 on the young adult New York Times bestseller list. I think this is a lovely and special book to be sure, but rather than "review" the book, per se, I want say something about Nerdfighteria.
I've read all of John Green's books. (Looking for Alaska is my favorite; I wrote about it here.) I was aware of the existence of Nerdfighteria. (Here is a Nerdighter FAQ if you have no idea what I'm talking about.) I knew that they like to say, "Don't forget to be awesome." I've truthfully always thought the whole thing seemed kind of corny, even for me, and I am pretty dang corny. But I'd never been around any Nerdfighters (that I know of) until last night.
When I drove up beautiful St. Charles Avenue toward the historic temple where the Tour de Nerdfighting event featuring John Green and Hank Green was being held, there were people lined up on the sidewalk well down the block. I thought to myself, "I guess there are some Nerdfighers in New Orleans," and rushed through the cold darkness, dodging the street car coming up the line, and walked inside, settling in one of the pews and feeling the energy in the air. These kids were psyched. And they stayed that way the entire time. "I can't believe how many adults are here," a girl behind me observed loudly, and I smiled to myself. I smiled so much throughout the evening that my face hurt as I drove home.
A group of three or four teenagers spilled into the row behind me and immediately took notice of a guy sitting nearby who was kind of keeping to himself. "Oh my God! We didn't expect to see YOU here! What are you doing here?" They peppered him with questions, talking over each other all at once. "Yeah," the guy said, kind of sighing, "This is kind of the other side of me." The solo guy kind seemed kind of straightlaced and calm, possibly a football player. The group surprised by his presence had more of a spazzy punk rock alternative free spirited sort of style. But there they were, smooshed side by side in the row. "I feel like this is something you would make fun of me for! But -- you're here!" said one of the girls. He sighed, "Yeah." Then the girl said, "Are you a Nerdfighter? I can't believe you're a Nerdfighter! It's not fair!" And he said, "What do you mean?" And she said, "That you, like, hide." One of the other guys yelled, "Do you have a Tumblr?" And the football player guy said, "Yeah ... no," like, "As if." Then the group said they were going to take and post a picture of him as evidence that he was there. He laughed, "It's okay ... no one I know has a Tumblr." But as they snapped his picture, he held up his copy of The Fault in Our Stars and he smiled.
"Who am I to say that these things might not be forever? Who is Peter Van Houten to assert as fact the conjecture that our labor is temporary? All I know of heaven and all I know of death is in this park: an elegant universe in ceaseless motion, teeming with ruined ruins and screaming children."
-- The Fault in Our Stars
This was a night of reading, songs, answering questions, and talking about books and life. John Green explained at one point while answering a question that one of the criticisms of his books is that he doesn't sound like he's writing in the voice of an actual teenager. He said, "I just know a lot of hyper-intelligent teenagers," and I thought, "Indeed," looking around at the hundreds of them all around me. They were so messy and weird and quiet and wild and great.
John Green talked about how in an ordinary life, there are not many opportunities for epic heroism -- throwing ourselves on grenades for others, if you will. But that we can be heroic in our own small ways that can ultimately be big ways. Here it is: I think that John Green and Hank Green are heroes. I think they are changing these young people's lives, and I think they are making the world a better place.
So I think that my love and appreciation for the Greens is not so much about the books one Green writes (wonderful) and the songs one Green sings (brilliant) but about this community they've created together that's more than a community, isn't it? It's a movement. And the young people who are a part of this movement simply by being who they are filled that big, beautiful temple last night with so much warmth and empathy and joy and sincere appreciation for the strangeness and uniqueness of every soul in there that it moved me from my head down to my toes. The whole building was vibrating with their joy. I forgot that I thought it was corny to be a Nerdfighter.
They did not forget to cheer when John Green mentioned The Great Gatsby. They did not forget the words as they sang along with Hank Green's songs about Harry Potter and about particle physics. They did not forget to fall silent and listen -- really listen -- when John Green said things like this:
"Forever is an incorrect concept wrongly based on the idea that the sun isn't going to explode. We are temporary. This is temporary, and our responsibility as humans within this temporary -- this weirdly temporary but still sort of, in some ways, infinite -- life that we have, with our gift of consciousness, is to find a way to live as well as we can live, to take the best care that we can of each other and of ourselves, and organize our lives in a way that reflects our values and our hopes for the people who'll come after us, as well as honoring the people who came before us -- that's a very, very complicated thing to do."
They did not forget to stand up and dance together, dragging each other off their feet.
They did not forget to be awesome.