Portraits of the Modern American Teenager in the Novels of John Green

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Hays, Sara Elizabeth
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Middle Tennessee State University
John Green, in his novels, repeatedly cycles back to several central themes related to being a young person, resulting in the creation of a unique paradigm for adolescence embodied by what I have dubbed “The John Green Teenager.” These teens are witty, introspective, and well-read. They explore their identities and ask big questions about things like suffering, justice, and love. Their interests are varied and multi-dimensional, such as Augustus Waters’s equal enjoyment of basketball, video games, and reading in The Fault in Our Stars or popular girl Margo Roth Spiegelman’s surprisingly extensive and diverse collection of vinyl records in Paper Towns. In the aftermath of a 20th-century popular culture sea change which effectively segmented the adolescent population into neat piles of jocks, nerds, and cheerleaders, the John Green Teenager defies conventional categorization.
Utilizing theories of developmental psychology, particularly the theories of Erik Erikson, as well as cultural analysis, to provide a critical context, this dissertation will endeavor to examine all of Green’s published novels from a variety of thematic viewpoints, such as identity formation, sexual development, and spirituality. The ultimate goal is to interpret Green’s understanding of modern American adolescence and to establish a paradigm for the John Green Teenager.
Adolescence, Development, Identity, John Green, Teenager, Youth