I don’t know if it’s productive to try figuring out why certain books/movies/people become popular, but I do think it’s natural. This feels especially true when something becomes mega-popular in a way that changes media trends and culture. With more than 10.7 million books printed and 130+ consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, The Fault in Our Stars definitely belongs in this category. In fact, when you type “Why is TFiOS so…” into google the second autofill is “popular” (the one first is “sad”) so I know a lot of others have this question on their minds. People and publications from Business Week to John Green himself have attempted to ask and answer why the book achieved this crazy level of popularity. I thought I’d add my two cents to discussion, before I head to The Night Before Our Stars later today (asdfghk!!!).
Green credits the success to a lot of people who helped make the book – his editor, his publicist, Penguin Books. Others point to his Internet platform (although this was firmly in place for several of his previous books), him signing all the preorders, and the book’s presence on the Time Magazine top ten books of the year list.
While I buy that these all had an effect, I have some other ideas of my own. Basically, I think the book became so popular in part because of the following four elements:
1.) It is fun and compelling to read. There is enough humor and cleverness to enjoy the reading experience, and enough tension (both romantic and sickness related) to keep you turning pages. I know I’m not the only one to finish it in one sitting.
2.) It appeals to both teenagers and adults. Much has been said about Green not dumbing his writing or his characters down for teenagers, but I think it’s equally important that he writes complex adult characters. Lots of YA books feature stupid and out of touch parents, which I think can be a hindrance in reaching a broad adult audience.
3.) The book explores some big concepts (death, sickness, infinity, etc.) that facilitate thinking about it well after you finish reading.
4.) The writing is very quote-able. This kind of goes along with it being fun to read, but it also makes readers more likely to remember and recommend the book. It lead to a massive amount of fan art and quote sharing through social media. “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” I can’t even.
These are the most coherent reasons I can think of. What makes the popularity of the book hard to pin down exactly is that lots of books have all these elements, but don’t achieve this level of readership. One of the most annoying things about this popularity is the prevalence of media outlets insulting and ignoring YA books written by women by saying Green “saved” or “fixed” young adult literature.
Some elements of popularity can’t be explained. But something I LOVE about the book industry is that success for one author begets success for more authors. The popularity of TFiOS has lead to more YA contemporary fiction being purchased and published. The money Penguin has earned from the book goes directly into paying advances for other books. It has made it easier, not harder, for young adult writers to get published and find an audience.
I can’t say with certainty that the movie will find the same level of success, but I’m pretty sure it will. With the trailer being the most liked ever and receiving more than 19 million views, along with the film being one of the best pre-selling movies ever, I think this is a safe assumption. I’ll be sure to let you all know what I think soon.
Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? If so, what did you think and why do you think it became so popular? If not, do you have a reason for skipping the book? Who is planning to see the movie? Let me know in the comments!