Being the millennial that I am, I have a fondness for young adult fiction, including stories written by John Green, the author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Looking for Alaska,” “An Abundance of Katherines” and “Paper Towns.”
Green is also one half of the popular YouTube channel Vlogbrothers, which began in 2007 as an internet communication project between John and his younger brother, Hank.
John recently released another novel, “Turtles All the Way Down,” a story about mental illness and a 16-year-old girl’s struggles with it while tracking down a fugitive billionaire, after about five years.
To celebrate the new book, John and Hank have been on a tour of the country. The tour included a stop in Nashville at War Memorial Auditorium, so I procured a ticket to see a couple of my internet heroes live and in-person.
The night began with John reading a short excerpt from the novel. The excerpt was of an intimate moment between the main character, Aza, and a childhood friend of hers, Davis.
Through the passage, John delved into his character’s struggles with a particular mental illness — something akin to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) — and how the “thought spirals” Aza finds herself trapped inside of make her “a detective whose brain is distinctly unhelpful.”
After a somber moment reflecting on the struggles of all those who suffer from mental illnesses of various forms, John and Hank entertained the crowd with a live version of their podcast “Dear Hank and John,” or as John likes to think of it, “Dear John and Hank.”
“Dear Hank and John” is “a comedy podcast about death,” so the brothers Green say, and they answer questions from listeners, give them dubious advice on matters and also provide all the most important news from Mars and the football club AFC Wimbledon.
The brothers shared how to make a home in a new city (“don’t be afraid to do the touristy things”), what kind of “hamster shenanigans” they would get into if they were a hamster for a day (John would “stay in the wheel” and wait for the day to end; Hank would see how much stuff he could fit into his mouth), who was a better “Mario Kart” player (John) and what they named their first cars (an old Volvo 240 named Arlo), among other dubious advice.
After they finished the live podcast segment, Hank performed acoustic versions of some of the songs he has written about science (“The Universe Is Weird” and “Strange Charm: A Song about Quarks”) and fish (“A Song about an Anglerfish”), as well as a cover of Smash Mouth’s “All-Star.”
Music City definitely lived up to its name, I must say.
Not only did everyone in the auditorium sing along to “All-Star,” but we even had a good group of people shout “Go!” during the bridge, which surprised Hank enough that he had to stop for a second and regroup.
“This is the first time that people have done the, ‘Go!’ That’s never happened before,” he said, which made me feel like part of the superior audience.
The night ended with what the brothers called the true test of audience participation: Hank played “Sweet Caroline,” and the auditorium was tasked with the supremely difficult task of not ad-libbing the “ba, ba, ba” and “so goods” during the chorus.
Sadly, the first set of “ba, ba, ba” was unsuccessful, but the second set of them were! And we managed not to shout “SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” as well, although someone did shout a well-timed “penis” during those silences, which gave everyone a laugh.
Overall, it was a great night filled with bittersweet moments, lots of laughs, and a lesson that Nashville is, in fact, one of John’s favorite cities in the nation.
I also found their bus at the end of the night, and I waited with about 20 or so other super-fans behind War Memorial Auditorium until they came out and loaded up to go back to their hotel.
They couldn’t stay and chat or sign anything or take pictures, but I at least got to tell them, “hello,” which is good enough for me.
I also touched the bus, which is not a euphemism. That was super cool.
I haven’t yet finished “Turtles All the Way Down,” but I’m making progress, and I can’t wait to see what else John has created for readers like me.
As they say in John and Hank’s hometown, don’t forget to be awesome.
If you like the internet and YouTube in general, check out the guys at youtube.com/vlogbrothers
“Dear Hank and John” can be found on iTunes and Patreon.
Erin McCullough may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.