Author John Green has written seven novels and five short stories, all in the young adult genre. At the age of 41, he has an undeniable ability to connect with teenagers, especially those who find themselves on the fringes of teen society. He and his brother, Hank Green, have built multiple businesses together, all of which proudly proclaim their founders as nerds, and all of which proudly support other nerds. John has largely built his success as a writer on his ability to be real and vulnerable with his teenage audience about experiences that aren’t unique to any particular age bracket. One of those experiences is the struggle associated with mental health issues. In his Sunday appearance on 60 Minutes, Green talked about that struggle and much more.
John Greene is most widely known for his novel, The Fault in Our Stars, that was turned into a feature film. It was on bestselling lists for three years and deals with serious subjects like cancer and death. Although most teens can’t relate specifically to those subjects, Green believes they can relate to the underlying themes of loss, grief, and pain.
Part of the secret to John Green’s literary success has nothing to do with his writing. One of the businesses he runs with his brother, Hank, is a YouTube vlog, The Vlog Brothers. The audience for the vlog is the same as the audience for his books, and it’s a way that allows him to connect with the people who read his books.
In his 60 Minutes interview, John Green says that when he writes, he’s writing to himself when he was in high school.
“I had a difficult time in high school. I wasn’t a very good student, and I had a lot of self-destructive impulses, and I felt scared all the time.” When asked what he was afraid of, he responds with, “The short answer is everything.”
Green’s most recent book was published last year, Turtles All the Way Down. It debuted at No. 1 and has been on bestseller lists for 50 weeks now. It is directly based on John’s own struggles with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health issues. He explained his goal with the book.
“I wanted to try to give people a glimpse of what it is. I wanted to try to put them at least a little bit inside of that experience.” One concept he talks about in Turtles All the Way Down is a thought spiral. Here’s how he described it in his interview.
“The thing about a spiral is that it — it goes on forever, right? Like, if you zoom in on the spiral, it can keep tightening forever. And that for me is the nature of obsessive thought, that it’s this inwardly-turning spiral that never actually has an end point.”
It’s a concept that some of those young adults on the fringes can relate to, and reading Green’s writings about it gives them comfort.
John Green also spoke of his belief that it’s important for adolescents to see adults who have mental illness and lead successful lives.
“I have a really wonderful life. I have a really rich, fulfilling life. I also have a pretty serious, chronic mental health problem. And those aren’t mutually exclusive. And the truth is that lots of people have chronic mental health problems and still have good lives.”