Letters About Literature: to John Green

Dear John Green,

The weight of schoolwork and forced reading for school has removed the ability to read for pleasure from the lives of virtually every student, including myself. My friends and I can all recount the times of our youth when we could all easily pick up a book and read cover to cover, taking the time to enjoy every bit of it. Nowadays, our schedules are so swamped that we don’t even have time for ourselves. I hope I’ll have enough time to pleasure read again someday, as it has not only helped my character development but allowed me to relieve stress.

For countless students, reading is just about getting from cover to cover, trying to desperately grasp any information that sticks off of the page. Reading shouldn’t be cramming character names and main plot details into your brain right before a test, hoping something sticks when you know you’ll just have to regurgitate it back out onto the page of an exam. And, once that exam or test is done, that information is forgotten; the true meaning of the text is discarded. The act of reading for pleasure has lost its meaning, and along with it I have lost a piece of myself.

I think the last time I was able to read for pleasure was reading your book, Paper Towns. At the age of 13, I vividly remember being drawn in by the book’s title, wondering what significance it would later hold. Before I began Paper Towns, I had already read some of your previous works, both The Fault in Our Stars and Looking For Alaska. Reading hit after hit before, I had high hopes for the next one. I remember the excitement quietly buzzing in my stomach as I turned the first page. Once I picked up the book, I could not put it down.

The main character Quentin and his complex relationship with Margo, the girl he pines after throughout the book and searches for when she mysteriously disappears, intrigued me from the start. Even though time had passed and their relationship had changed to the point where they weren’t even friends anymore, he still deeply cared about her. Quentin was infatuated with the picture-perfect image he held of her from her childhood, when in reality, she was flawed and grew and changed, just like him and everyone else.

The way Margo seeps into the way Quentin thinks made me consider my own relationships with the people in my life. Instead of seeing people as how I wanted them to be, hoping they would turn into the image I thought of them as, I learned to accept them as the way they are. I also took this upon myself. Instead of perceiving myself with what I wanted to see, I learned to accept my true self. This book really instilled in me to see people for who they really are. With the current availability of social medias and information in general it makes it far too easy to access false information and in turn build false identities for ourselves and for others. These false identities are hard to shake; our impressions of someone unfortunately stick, like when someone says to make a good first impression because it counts. However, these impressions can change as bonds are formed between people; this book has taught me that.

Like Quentin, sometimes it may be hard for us to accept that people change, or that people aren’t who we really thought they were. But the fact of the matter is, the sooner we accept people for who they truly are, the sooner we will be able to grow and work on ourselves.

So thank you, John Green, for widening my perspective on the world. Not only have I been able to open my eyes to the Margo Roth Spiegelmans of the world, but to find the Quentins too, and to be kind and open to all around me. My horizons have broadened and I am a better person because of the lessons this book has taught me; to accept others as they are, to not take the people in my life and around me for granted, and that even the worst nights will pass because even if it is hard to see, there is always hope.

I hope that in the near future, I will have free time to read again. Next, I hope to tackle another book of yours; Turtles All the Way Down. I can’t wait.

Sincerely, Brenna

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