One night at a family gathering, my cousin Austin, a philosophy student at Wake Forest, asked, “Have you heard of the writer John Green? He lives in Indianapolis.” In fact, I’d just had lunch with the young-adult author at the Broad Ripple Brewpub to chat about him writing for the magazine. Austin’s ears perked up. “Really? You’ve MET him?” Austin became an ardent fan in 2007, when he saw Green and his brother Hank’s Vlogbrothers video series on YouTube’s homepage—a watershed moment for the two, as dining editor Julia Spalding discovered in her profile of the author, “John Green Finally Goes to the Movies.” The video led Austin to read Green’s book An Abundance of Katherines, and a Nerdfighter—as Green’s devoted legions are called—was born. That night, our 12-year age gap dissolved; my normally reserved cousin was the most talkative and animated I’d seen him be in years. And our discussion perfectly illustrated the fervor Green inspires.
There’s a worry when profiling someone as universally beloved as Green, though, that the story will become a hagiography. The brains behind the New York Times bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars couldn’t be as good-hearted and scandal-free as he seems, right? Oh, sure he has flaws. Evidently, when writing, he can be a bit of a grump, reports Spalding. And let’s go ahead and deduct points for the fact that his multifaceted empire (videos, books, movies, philanthropic endeavors, sports sponsorships, etc., etc.) makes most of us feel like chronic underachievers.
Otherwise, the times I’ve met the northsider, he’s been nothing but friendly and thoughtful, getting me wine at an event when he saw my glass was low. One of Time’s 100 Most Influential People even manages not to do the “over the shoulder”—you know, when someone you’re talking to keeps looking beyond you to see who else more important might be on the horizon.
As you’ll see in Spalding’s story, these qualities, along with his immensely popular books, have garnered the 36-year-old countless literary evangelists like Austin, and those numbers grow daily as book clubs and pop-culture fiends read TFIOS to gear up for its theatrical release this month. For the moment, though, he’s ours. Let’s just hope the pride of Indy’s writing scene will end up staying here now that his star is rising. Okay, John? Okay.
Amanda Heckert is the editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Monthly.
This column appeared in the June 2014 issue.