Want to know how a book can affect someone? Here’s my letter to John Green after his book, The Fault in our Stars created havoc in the school where I teach. For the record, he did respond to me and he was far from angry (which I figured). Though he didn’t offer me a new book. If you want to see his answer, e-mail me and I will send it to you.
And if you didn’t read The Fault in our Stars, I highly recommend it. I just wrote a review of it and you can see that here.
Anyway, enjoy the letter.
I am writing this letter to apologize to you for preventing the sale of approximately 150 copies of your book, The Fault in our Stars. The guilt was eating me up and I decided that I owed you an explanation even though you probably were not aware of it and it more than likely made no difference on your standing in the New York Times Book Section. I guess this is kind of like one of those 12 Step Programs for Addicted Readers and I am up to the“Apologize to the author you might have screwed over” step.
I teach an 11th grade English class. They are on what is called the “regular” track, but for many reasons they have been referred to as being on the “hopeless” track. In December, I made the decision to throw out the curriculum and focus on basics with my class. Like, “This is a sentence.” Or, “Here’s how you hold a pencil.” As part of this new approach, I went online and purchased 13 novels that I hoped they would like to read. Five of those novels were yours – one of which was The Fault in Our Stars. (Which was a signed copy, by the way. Thanks for that.)
Anyway, I told everyone to pick a book and just read it and let the class know what they think. The Fault in our Stars was picked up by one girl who started reading it in class that day. It was finished by morning and she had given it to another student in the class (that first student picked up Paper Towns next). Pretty soon, everyone in the class was fighting to be the next reader of The Fault in Our Stars.
For me, this was pretty cool. Especially since I never had actually seen any of these students read before, much less get excited about a book.
But here’s where it gets crazy.
As my students went through the John Green books on my shelf, The Fault in out Stars started travelling around the school. Everyone that I ran into was either waiting for the book or had just passed it on to someone else. It was the book everyone wanted and my classroom was filled with students trying to track down the book or borrow another book in the interim.
I pointed students to Amazon, to Barnes and Noble, and to Books and Books (our local book shop), but everyone wanted MY book. The signed, advance copy book. The one that started it all.
It suddenly hit me that while I was happy the whole school was reading, no one actually purchased the book and, yeah, maybe that isn’t the news John Green would like to hear – nobility of purpose aside, of course.
But here’s the deal. Not only has your book inspired non-readers but it has also spawned an entirely new group of Nerdfighters. Not the kids who are the smart, motivated, I-love-to-learn Nerds, but the ones who know first-hand about how much the world truly sucks. The ones that struggle in the educational mold that never quite fit them and suddenly found a way to do something others completely took for granted. They read a book. They loved it. And they, the most unlikely of sources in our school, started a virtual book club among both upper and lower classmen.
But they never bought a book.
So I apologize for cutting into your sales. I never intended to start the John Green fan club from my humble desk. But there was nothing I could do. If it is any consolation, I no longer have my signed copy of The Fault in our Stars. At this point, I am sure some exchange student got it and gave it to his brother in the Sudan somewhere.
If you ever are in Miami, I would love to get another signature. And I would love for you to stop by and see what you have done. And maybe you can sell your books at that point and recoup the losses my lone book might have caused.
P.S. I am currently in the market for an Ilene. Please let me know if you are available.
Categories: Creativity, Writing
That is a fantastic letter. I love that you have inspired an entire school to read with just one book. It’s amazing how such a little thing (at least to some) can be the biggest thing.
this is fantastic and I am so happy for your students and you. Would love to read the response!
This is fantastic and I am so happy for you and your students. great teaching! also would love to read the response. 🙂