John Green emphasizes importance of supportive community among those facing mental health challenges while promoting new book

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A signed copy of John Green’s new novel, Turtles All The Way Down. In lieu of interviews, Green gifted a signed copy to those who attended the event at the Alex Theatre in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Gabby Gonzales Carpio/Occidental Weekly

Award-winning, best-selling author John Green released his first novel since “The Fault in Our Stars,” titled “Turtles All the Way Down” Oct. 10. The novel follows 16-year-old Aza, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), in her search for a fugitive billionaire. In celebration of the novel’s release, John Green, along with his brother, Hank Green, embarked on a nationwide book tour that ended at the Alex Theater in Glendale, Nov. 2. Hank Green hosts the educational Youtube channels Crash Course and SciShow, and manages the Vlogbrothers alongside John Green. During the soldout multimedia event, John and Hank Green discussed the novel, answered audience questions and performed live music.

Like Aza, John Green has lived with OCD since childhood. He described how isolating his mental illness was because he did not have the necessary language to share his experience with others. Living with OCD, according to John Green, is like being trapped inside a prison cell the exact dimensions of his body.

In “Turtles All the Way Down,” John Green wanted to give people insight what it is like to have a mind that feels foreign. He paralleled how Aza’s lack of control over her thoughts destabilized her sense of self to his own experience with OCD.

“[OCD] made me feel like a passenger in my own consciousness,” John Green said. “I mean if I can’t stop thinking these thoughts that I don’t want to have, then whose thoughts are they? Who’s the captain of this ship I call myself? It’s clearly not myself.”

John Green’s new novel, Turtles All The Way Down, signed for those who attended the event at the Alex Theatre in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Gabby Gonzalez/Occidental Weekly

Throughout the night, John and Hank Green emphasized the necessity of togetherness and hope. In the program, John Green included a letter to those who were attending the event alone, ensuring them that they are a valued member of the nerdfighteria community of John and Hank Green’s fans. Hank Green explained that sometimes the world is mean and things can be hard but that it does get better; he then proceeded to sing “All Star” by Smash Mouth.

At the end of the event, John Green recounted a story about British soldiers in World War I singing about the meaninglessness of life in the trenches that his late friend Amy Krouse Rosenthal told him about. He described how the song resonated with him because it spotlighted humanity’s ability to come together with hope in times of struggle.

“Amy made me believe in that moment what I have believed ever since — that hope is not foolish or idealistic or misguided,” John Green said. “Hope that life will get better and hope that life will go on is the correct response to the arc of history.”

John and Hank Green connected with the audience as they recorded an episode of their podcast, “Dear Hank and John” where they answered submitted questions and gave dubious advice, according to John Green. Questions ranged from college seniors asking for help deciding what to do with their lives to how to confiscate a bandmate’s terrible tambourine with tact. When asked how to tell if someone has become successful, John and Hank Green agreed that the most successful person they knew was the television personality, Mr. Fred Rogers. For Hank Green, the story of thieves returning Rogers’ stolen car emphasized his reputation for kindness.

“Live your life as if you were going to be the kind of person thieves give your car back to,” Hank Green said.

To end the tour, John and Hank Green led the audience in singing “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. They urged the audience to refrain themselves from singing the Red Sox version of the song in an act of unity.

“It is a feeling of togetherness you will carry with you for the rest of your life and it will buoy you and provide you light in dark times,” John Green said.

Although he has not read “Turtles All the Way Down” yet, Kutter Wright (first year) is a fan of John Green’s writing and has read the majority of the author’s works. Wright noted that John Green’s accessible writing style made his books’ messages clear.

“His books are very easy to read, and although they may discuss more heavy subjects, I still feel like it’s something you read to enjoy, and it’s forward in what it wants to tell you,” Wright said.

Longtime fan Addy Nunn (first year) was impressed with the brothers’ sincerity and by the fact that they live the messages they hope to teach, both online and in person.

“[John and Hank Green] talk about impactful subjects and they do live the kindness and the compassion they spread, and that’s a cool thing,” Nunn said.