Before John Green, his general category of realistic (non-fantasy) YA was rife with teen angst and “issues” fiction that you might have associated with the legendary Judy Blume, or with newer writers like Sarah Dessen or Laurie Halse Anderson. Anderson’s classic 1999 novel Speak, about a high schooler struggling to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault, was so influential that three years later Penguin launched an entire imprint named after it. One of the books launched under the behest of Speak was Green’s Looking for Alaska. But it’s Green whose name you’re more likely to know today, not Anderson’s, although Anderson has won more awards and written more books.
On Twitter, Green has 2 million followers. Compared to the rest of the leaders in Young Adult fiction, that number is staggering. To approach even half the Twitter influence of John Green all by himself, you need an entire army of YA women. Anderson, Blume, Dessen, Veronica Roth, Cassandra Clare, Richelle Mead, Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia, Rainbow Rowell, Maureen Johnson, Malinda Lo, Holly Black, LJ Smith, Ellen Hopkins, Shannon Hale, Lauren Myracle, Libba Bray, Melissa Marr, and Leigh Bardugo: As a group these women only have about 1.2 million followers on Twitter.
That’s the voice of one man outweighing several decades of women who have had major successes, critical acclaim, and cultural influence.
When a man succeeds in a devalued (because of its association with women) field, he legitimizes it in popular opinion.
I feel like this needs to be put into context. I had never heard of John Green until much later because of the videos that he and his brother do together (there is something wrong with that sentence. blah). I’m definitely not devaluing the point being made here, but Green started with a decent group through his novels and found a way to manipulate and spread his influence in a vast yet direct way through vlogbrothers. I’ve never read his books (or a lot of the others actually. I just can’t do depressing right now, maybe one day), but I can seriously appreciate the way John and Hank play off each other and appeal to the audience in two completely different, yet nerdy ways. Veronica Roth, Cassandra Clare, LJ Smith (loved her growing up), and more who aren’t named here are possibly just as good as him (if not better) in novel format. However, I would argue that John Green isn’t limited to novel format, and (while it may have started that way) he’s now known far more through a variety of different formats, most widely through youtube and tumblr. I had heard Don’t Forget To Be Awesome (DFTBA) long before I had watched vlogbrothers.
I think it’s misleading to even compare these authors at this point. I would consider it a disservice to all of them. I’m not saying marginalization doesn’t happen. Jesus, I don’t think anyone would argue that! However, (Please correct me if I’m wrong), I haven’t seen quite the same presence from any of these other authors. I think it’s also what is done with that influence. Green has done some crazy charity stuff.
I haven’t read any of Patricia C. Wrede’s books in years, but I am more likely to think of her books (I’m frankly annoyed that she wasn’t mentioned (mostly kidding, not the same genre… mostly)) because she has a blog she updates fairly regularly. It’s a generation that needs constant stimulation and the vlogbrothers manage it quite fantastically. (I am also super bias because they keep my life interesting while I’m doing data entry in an empty office, but I think my point still stands.)
(I feel like I’m not even making sense. It’s not even midnight. I’m getting old.)