Nerdfighters : Some much needed criticism

Its been almost 6 years since I became a Nerdfighter . Its been a journey of acceptance and hope and discovery . I joined Nerdfighteria at a time when my life was at a low point. I was depressed , suicidal and felt the kind of bone deep loneliness that makes you wonder at the hopelessness of this existence of ours and leaves you almost catatonic with disillusionment . It was then that I came across The Fault in our stars written by a guy with sticking up hair sitting in front of a fountain who seemed much too young to be capable of writing what was essentially a book about two teenagers dying from cancer. I was prepared to either hate the book or find it passable but cloying. Instead ; I found friends in the most unlikely of places. These were teenagers who talked like me and cared about the same things I cared about and wondered about the same things I wondered . They had the same penchant for long convoluted sentences and judging people by their bookshelves . They plumbed video games for the philosophical connotations of sacrifice and martyrdom and talked about how some promises can never be fully meant . For the first time i felt at home with the length and breadth of my sentences ; because they didn’t seem quite so unwieldy in Hazels and Augustus’s mouths. It was the first book I ever read where I immediately started reading it again (by immediately I mean after crying about Augustus for like an hour ). From there I went back and read all the others : Looking for Alaska (which i somehow loved more than TFIOS), An Abundance of Katherines (which struck a chord with me for all the weirdest reasons ) and Paper Towns (Quentin , you poor  misguided thing ). They formed my introduction to Young Adult literature as a whole and for that I will be forever grateful . Then I went online and found the Vlogbrothers and the rest as they say is history . Except that now I find myself in a position I never thought i would be in . I find myself deciding to say goodbye .

Its hard. So unbearably hard to walk away from a community that has been my rock for the last 6 or so years . Even though i haven’t ever been all that active in it , it gave me a sense of belonging that i hadn’t had much of in my life . It made me feel heard at a time when my voice seemed to count for nothing. It showed me that there were people like me out there . That i wasn’t alone in the world , which is what i had always been afraid of since i was a kid . Every video that John and Hank did was something i would watch as soon as it was uploaded and some of them i binge watched multiple times (I once studied to the tune of The Batman Song for 3 hours ).

However , since AART (An absolutely remarkable thing by Hank Green)came out its been like awakening from limbo for me. It took reading this book to make me realize just how much Nerdfighteria has changed . If you look through literally all the Discord discussions or the Reddit discussions ; there is not a single piece of criticism about the book . I’m not even talking about people bashing on the book . There isn’t even one line of criticism about the book. Not one disagreement on whether it was well written or plot points or Hanks handling of the characters ….it was a homogenous wall of deafening applause . I hate to tell you guys : absolutely nothing can be that remarkable (pun intended). There are entire critical texts on Shakespeares plays ; Dantes Inferno , the Bronte Sisters entire body of work , Melvilles Moby Dick and  Austens Pride and Prejudice . These are some of the greatest books in the English language and even they have people pointing out plot holes ,inconsistencies ,character flaws etc. Yet there is only one negative review that i could find on AART and even that wasn’t a negative review per se . And there were almost no negative comments on the fan sites

This isn’t good . Not for us as a community . Not for literature . Definitely  not for the Internet in general . Every community should hold its members accountable ; especially when said members are at the founders of the community . We should applaud all the things AART got right : a truly interesting premise , some good quotes and a suitably complex and well charted plot . There are however things that AART fails at : a skewed representation of bisexual people , an unsympathetic and problematic protagonist who we are supposed to  root for even though she gives us no good reason to actually support her , corny (and in some cases ; plain bad) dialogue and an ending that honestly feels similar to how Sherlock Holmes “dies” in the “Adventure of the final problem”.  Even the Entertainment Weekly review ( I can’t believe the only review to call the book out was by the EW of all sites ) ended by saying that:

“Sure, Remarkable Thing has robots and aliens to spare — but the actual people need an upgrade.”

Which is honestly the nicest way they could put the fact that this book is populated by some of the most two dimensional cliched characters in all of YA. They talk as though their brain was a random generator filled with the most inane pop culture references you could ever find. Also; the first sentence of this book is one of the most needlessly tortuous opening lines of any book ever. How any editor thought it was a good idea to have such an annoyingly run on sentence as the opening line baffles me . This book so obviously falls into all the classic first author pitfalls that its not even funny after a point. And did seriously no one notice that this book reads like Hank talks ? The entire book is written in this rushed cacophony that is almost stream of consciousness but just ends up imbuing the narrative with a unnecessary chaos. Which just serves to further confuse an already confused plot.  There were times in the book when i hoped the world would oblige by imploding because i would rather die than live in a reality where humanity’s survival depends on the undying narcissism of April May ( Sidenote : This is an atrocious meaningless pun of a name that …just why . Hank , you came with a name as originally pun-ny as  Hanklerfish and somehow you thought it was a good idea to name a protagonist April May ? ) . How many times does April May decide to go it alone and try to fix everything herself and then catastrophically screw everything up because she thinks shes too cool for something as degrading as a collaboration ? I repeat ; this is our protagonist ? And to all the people who are saying that ” just because she is a protagonist ; doesnt mean that she has to be flawless ” I say that i agree . A protagonist doesnt have to be flawless ….but there have to be some good character traits . April May is a person who seems to have no redeeming personality traits , treats the people around her like garbage , has a sense of entitlement and narcissism that is utterly and completely baseless and is the most commitment phobic protagonist i have seen in Young Adult fiction in the recent past .

But we praised this problematic book to the skies .

We as a community, advance ordered for no other reason than because Hank wrote it . It debuted at no.1 on NYT Hardcover fiction list and now stands 2nd in the Combined E book and print fiction section . Question: Are you seriously trying to tell me that Hank outwrote Kate Atkinson and Vince Flynn and Kevin Kwan ? Are you telling me that AART is a better book than Crazy Rich Asians?

So this is why i have to take my leave . I will still watch Vlogbrothers videos from time to time and read Johns books whenever they do come out . I will still cheer randomly whenever i hear that AFC Wimbledon won a match . I will still hum The Batman Song from time to time.

But i don’t think i will call myself a Nerdfighter again .

I won’t celebrate Pizzamas or wait for The Project for Awesome.

I won’t fill in the Nerdfighter Census again.

I won’t go to the Nerdfighter Reddit or discords to find my people .

In Paper Towns John observes that:

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

Somehow even with that warning , we messed up just as bad as Quentin did .