Tag Archives: Nerdfighters

Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The broken toy in a pretty box

I recently finished reading two books, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. Both are written by one of my favorite people in the world, John Green. However, their subject matter is not my favorite.

In each of these books, John uses the character type generally referred to as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG). Wikipedia defines the MPDG as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

The protagonists of these books, Pudge and Quentin, are both high school boys who become infatuated with their “dream girls” — Alaska for Pudge and Margo Roth Spiegelman for Q. In Looking for Alaska, Pudge starts at a new boarding school where he meets Alaska and quickly becomes bewitched by her. Q has lived next door to Margo for years, but has only admired her from afar. Both of these girls are mysterious, and although the boys realize that, neither tries to find out why that is. Both are too focused on their own desires and the fact that Alaska or Margo might be interested in them that they fail to see how broken these girls are.

When Alaska dies tragically, Pudge realizes how much he really didn’t know about her. He starts digging and finally sees what he should have seen before — that Alaska was a deeply broken girl that needed to be truly loved as a friend, not put on a pedestal that no girl, no person, deserves to be put on. When Margo disappears, Quentin decides that she’s left him this elaborate trail to follow, when the truth is that she has no desire to be found. He’s so obsessed with the idea that this girl needs him that he can’t see there’s something  legitimately wrong.

Our society as a whole has really embraced the whole MPDG idea. Women are constantly being held to standards that they could never hope to reach — be thin but not too thin, have sex but don’t be a slut, be educated but don’t be a nerd, the list goes on and on. Even though Pudge and Q see their illusions shattered at the end of their respective books, simply writing the MPDG character is perpetuating the concept. This is one of the reason’s I like The Fault in Our Star, John’s most recent book, so much more than these. Hazel and Augustus, the two main characters, know what they’re getting into. They may overlook each other’s faults, as many teenagers in love do, but Gus never holds Hazel up to his own unattainable ideas.

I personally liked Paper Towns better than Looking for Alaska, but both books seem to promote an idea that I’m completely uncomfortable with. If you want to read John Green, go for Will Grayson, Will Grayson or The Fault in Our Stars, which no one can go wrong with. These promote much more positive messages and don’t wrap a broken character with a bow of perfection.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Meeting Cassie Clare: The YA family

I’m a book nerd. Obviously. So what to book nerds do when they find out when they’re going on vacation? They go online and see if any of their favorite authors are going to be there at the same time. At least that’s what I did last summer when I found out I was going to San Diego, and by divine intervention or dumb luck, the author of one of my favorite book series, Cassandra Clare, was going to be in town right in the middle of my vacation.

2012-08-01 20.50.32

Of course I had to go. I made room in my luggage for her most recent publication, City of Lost Souls, and headed west. I somehow convinced my parents to use the rental car and drive me to the “Mysterious Galaxy” bookstore, where a hundred teen girls and tween girls with their mothers packed into the little store. It was the floor or standing room only by the time I arrived.

I knew about Cassie through social media, Tumblr, Twitter and the like, and I am happy to report she is just as sweet and sarcastic as she seems online. She read aloud the “manor scene” from Jace’s point of view, an obvious big hit for those who have read the books. (And if you haven’t, I definitely recommend them if you like YA fantasy.)

She then opened the floor for questions. She talked about her books and what’s coming next for her beloved characters and the Shadowhunter realm in general. She also talked about her personal life, what she likes to read, where she gets her ideas from. These answers held the most interest for me. She said she never reads books in the same genre as what she’s writing, she’ll read something more contemporary, like John Green or a murder mystery. She explained that if she reads something in the same genre she’ll start to worry, “Oh my god, this book has a talking cat, I have a talking cat, I have to kill the cat!” she joked. There are always going to be similarities in books, that’s what makes it a genre, she said.

After her talk, it was time for the signing. We lined up outside in the bookstore in the lovely San Diego dusk and waited. One of the best things about going to nerdy events is that everyone there is a nerd. Some are bigger nerds than others, but everyone, at some level, is a nerd, which means more than likely you’ll have more in common with them than you would the average Joe on the street. In line there was no shortage of talk on Harry Potter, Hunger Games, the Green brothers and nerdfighteria, Doctor Who, Sherlock, the list could go on and on. Name any nerdy fandom you can think of, it was represented there. It’s great to be surrounded by people who love (OK, are obsessed with) the same things you do, without inhibition, and you can just let go and be yourself. I’ve also found people at these kind of events are incredibly nice and courteous, especially compared to say a sporting event. When we’d gone through the line, the girl I had been talking with asked me for my Twitter handle, said “It was so nice to meet you!” and gave me a big hug. We still fangirl together over Twitter occasionally.

Cassie herself was, as I mentioned earlier, lovely. She greeted me when I walked up and asked me where I was from. Her movie was being casted at the time, and they had announced who would be playing Alec earlier that day, so naturally I gushed about how attractive he is. She responded enthusiastically, saying “I met him the other day and I was just like, ‘What’s it like to be so tall and incredibly good-looking?” She also told me she was taking a poll, and asked who my favorite characters were from each series. I replied, “Is it cliche if I say Jace and Will?” She said something to the effect of, Ah, the Herondale boys. Of course not! and told me they were in the lead. She was a sweetheart and posed for a picture with me after she signed my book. It was an overall great experience, and just another reason I love my YA fiction family.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Holden Caulfield Thinks You’re A Phony: A John Green appreciation post

Right now I’m reading The Catcher in the Rye (yes, for the first time), and yesterday I came across this sentence: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” And that’s when I realized that Holden Caulfield knows what it’s like to read a John Green book.

I read my first John Green book freshman year of high school, and I’m sad to say that it did not change my life. In fact, it wasn’t even all that memorable to be honest with you. Five years later, all I remember about An Abundance of Katherines is an overweight best friend and an affinity for replacing the f-word with “fug.” Then last year, when his newest book, The Fault in Our Stars, was being released, my world was changed. This book was everywhere; I couldn’t go anywhere on the Internet without hearing about how wonderful it was or how amazing John Green is. I had seen a few of John’s videos before this, but I had not yet immersed myself into the realm of Nerdfighteria.

Realizing that I wouldn’t be able to avoid spoilers much longer, and seeing as how I was intrigued with all the excitement surrounding the book, I did what any good, broke college student would do- I found a pdf version of the book online and began reading.

I hate reading on a computer screen, but I finished that book  pdf file in less than 24 hours, half of it spent sitting out in the sun (yes I had the sunburn to prove it.) And I finally understood what all the fuss was about. TFiOS was beautiful, wonderful, amazing, everything people had said it was. But this post isn’t about The Fault in Our Stars, although it is a great book that is definitely worth your time. This post is about the mastermind behind it. A big part of the storyline of this book revolves around an author that the main character, Hazel, wants to meet. However, when she finally does meet Peter van Houten, he less than lives up to the expectations she has built up for him. I have no doubts whatsoever that meeting John Green would not only meet but exceed all of my greatest expectations. Why am I so sure?

Well here’s a good place to start: Vlogbrothers. In 2007, the Green brothers, Hank and John (pictured left) decided they would go a year without communicating by text, and video blog each other ever day for the duration of 2007. I had seen some of these videos on and off, depending on which ones peaked my interest, but recently I decided to go through and watch them from start to finish. It’s a big task to take on, considering that they still post videos daily, but when you’re watching it’s like you’re conversing with two of your best friends. You get to know their lives and their personalities, their likes and dislikes, and you come to love the Green brothers and their love for each other and their Nerdfighters (Nerdfighters is what they call their “followers.” Basically, we’re made of awesome.) John, the elder lit nerd, and Hank, the younger science/computer geek. Together they created Brotherhood 2.0 and thousands of videos for your viewing pleasure. They have also created many spin-off channels, my favorite of which is Crash Course. Here the Green brothers upload short, informative videos about everything from the Civil War to the endocrine system. Sometimes in fifteen minutes or less I can learn more about a subject than I can in a 50 minute class.

Not only is John Green active on YouTube, but also on other social medias, including Twitter and Tumblr. I think this is the way of the future. People love the feeling that they’re connected to the figures they look up to and respect. Being connected to the Green’s in the same ways that I’m connected to my own friends helps give me that feeling that Holden so eloquently describes, and I know that if I called up John Green that he would be a terrific friend of mine.
DFTBA

(P.S. So Hank doesn’t feel left out, here are the links to his Twitter and Tumblr as well.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized