Last Friday saw thousands of young women descend on the Odeon Leicester Square for a Q&A session with Fault In Our Stars author John Green, for his latest film adaptation Paper Towns.
With excitement already at fever pitch for the bestselling author, a surprise appearance by the film's stars, model of the moment Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff, sent the decibel levels soaring.
Stylist’s editorial director Phil Hilton was in the audience with his 15-year-old daughter. He reflects on a night where the solitary act of reading provoked a rock-star reaction, proving the popularity of books is still very much alive and kicking - even in an age where the iPhone is king.
"I've been to loads of book Q&As over the years. Lovely people, usually about fifty of them, pack into a room over a pub or into an after-hours Waterstones. The crowd are always warm and a little intense.
Readers have a close relationship with writers and often the questions are really just appeals for friendship or acknowledgement, and have no asking bit in them at all.
The questions at Friday’s Q&A with YA giant, John Green were different; snappy, fun and submitted via Twitter. The author of The Fault in Our Stars didn’t have a roving mic in the hands of someone from the publishing company, it would have been hard for them to the cover the space… he’d filled the whole of London’s Odeon Leicester Square.
The cinema is one of the UK’s biggest (they hold movie premieres there) but on Friday it was packed with teenage girls. Teenage girls who screamed when the writer walked onto the stage. The scream that only teenage girls can do – an involuntary venting of excitement that shreds all the fragile cartilage inside your ears.
Unstoppable young women queued around the block to meet a writer, a writer. They politely overran the reserved press seating area, an army in a uniform of boyfriend jeans and crop tops.
Green’s beautifully constructed funny and moving novels took him into the Forbes highest paid authors list in 2014 and here he was; charming and funny and playing the crowd (he is also a prolific YouTuber).
The event was prompted by his latest film adaptation. Paper Towns published in 2008, has been turned into a movie starring Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff. We were shown a 20 minute taster – Cara turns out to be the supermodel who can act, the clip entirely lived up to the pace and atmosphere of the book. After John had been talking for ten minutes Nat strolled onto the stage, a surprise guest. Everyone screamed. He was relaxed and playful, smart and funny.
Then we were told Cara couldn’t be with us. John and Nat goofed around and did accents. Everyone laughed, some screamed.
Then she walked onto the stage.
Auditory canal, cochlea and ear drum will be up and about again sometime in 2018.
The world’s biggest supermodel was a shot of winning anarchy and playful intelligence, impossible to resist. She had the entire room (your correspondent included) performing a Mexican Wave for her camera phone.
And at the centre of the show, John Green himself, and his books.
Books that take hours to read, hours of sitting quietly, turning pages, not looking at youtube, not watching the telly, not snapchatting, instagramming, facebooking or tweeting, an activity that always seems under threat and somehow old-fashioned.
Last Friday around 2000 young women and the world’s most famous fashion model reminded us that this 200 year-old entertainment format is not dead yet. That’s worth a little scream."
Watch a highlight clip from the event, below. Paper Towns hits UK cinemas on 17 August.