Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

The Naming of Julia; John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

The other day on Twitter a reader — whom the court will refer to as @FredaLisgaras, since that is in fact her name — asked if Julia had a last name. And of course she does. But I don’t know what it is, because it’s not in the book.

It’s funny about characters’ names: you know they have them, but unless the narrator supplies them, or somebody for some reason says them out loud, which is surprisingly rare, (see p. 20 of The Magicians, or p. 118 of The Magician King) they don’t tend to come out.

(My narrators tend not to say the characters’ last names because I write in what people sometimes call “close” third-person narration, which means that even though theoretically they’re different people, the narrator’s persona and point of view are closely identified with those of the character whose story they’re telling. And people don’t tend to think about their own last names, or the last names of people they know well. Henry James called this narrative technique “focalization.” I don’t know why I know that.)

Anyway, for whatever reason Julia’s name has never come up, so I suggested that people submit nominations via Twitter. Here’s what came in, in no particular order:


If you’ve got a preference (or another nomination), cause it to be known in the comments. Let’s make some canon!

Next time: the verdict.

p.s. Apropos of nothing, I have to take a second to mention John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which I’m almost done reading. (I sometimes get advance copies of books; it’s one of the things that makes my life good.) The other day I posted on Time.com about seven books I’m looking forward to in 2012, and I didn’t mention Green’s book, because I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’d heard his stuff was good, but I’d never read it myself, and because I’m a suspicious and distrusting person, I didn’t take its goodness on faith. Then I picked up The Fault in Our Stars. I am totally devastated by this book. I cried when I read it, and I never cry. You don’t want to throw around phrases like “instant classic,” but I can see this book sitting next to The Catcher in the Rye. It’s that good.

32 comments on “The Naming of Julia; John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

  1. Grosswoman has a certain charm to it, for some reason. I really like Ballard, too, but I have to admit it’s mostly because I’m still hopelessly in love in Agent Ballard from Dollhouse.

  2. Jaimie says:

    I just read John Green’s Looking for Alaska. It was good. Very good. He makes me feel better about my book maybe being classified as YA one day. He writes smart YA.

    I would feel wrong naming someone’s character (I don’t think I could name your sloth either), so I will abstain. Looking forward to the reveal!

  3. Ben says:

    I really like Barclay, but I can’t tell if that’s just because I read it first, and it hit me so squarely between the eyes that nothing else sounds right. So I’m going to vote for it second, if such a thing is allowed, and vote for Chase on thematic grounds.

  4. Sarah says:

    I vote for Morgenstern, out of sheer love for The Princess Bride.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Anything but Grant! That’s the last name of *my* main character in the story I’m writing! *g*

  6. M says:

    oh man
    i want to like John Green so much. I’ve seen his youtube videos and i really enjoyed them and i never enjoy anything
    but i hated “Looking for Alaska” and i wrote a really hateful rant about it then i felt bad so i wrote on top how much i like John Green as a person but how much i hate his ways of writing, his contrived plots. I’ll read fault in our stars because i want to like him as a writer and as a person…
    i hate giving names to anything, stores, towns, people, so i refuse to participate!
    (but i like Dryden)

  7. PJ says:

    How about Chandler? I think it has a nice ring, anyway. Though several of the candidates on the list work just as well.

  8. Freda Lisgaras says:

    Yikes. I am so sorry. I was just cheering Julia on the whole way, and I really wanted to know what her last name might be. Thank you for responding so generously.

    She’s perfect. For me, it was, you have Lucy Pevensie as one bookend, (especially when you’ve read the books as a child, the way Quentin does, and they form part of your own identity) you know, the innocent young girl with the direct relationship to Aslan, and then, on the other end, there’s Julia. Who is wonderful to read as a grown up in this contect. Who’s been chasing her own need for magic, which has kept her pure despite everything she goes through, who has to do everything Quentin does but backwards and in high heels. And who is now literally on Ember’s level.

    And I just loved her as a character. Even her speech patterns.

    I cannot wait to see how you’re going to top an apotheosis, by the way.

    Coincidentally, I just finished re-reading Paper Towns, by John Green. He is awesome.

  9. Michael says:

    I vote for Ogden, not entirely sure why but i’ve always been partial to that name.

  10. Alexa says:

    I vote for Pierce. I love Dryden, but it’s too much like “dryad.”

  11. Little My says:

    I guess I like Pasternak or Barbour. I remember when you first opened this up to suggestion, I was thinking that something Armenian would work very well, especially with her coloring. But I couldn’t come up with anything specific (not being Armenian myself, and not knowing any Armenians personally). A brief visit to Wikipedia just now provided a list of last names; a couple seemed to be cool without being too distracting: Naroyan, Yerevanian. Maybe Seropian.

  12. TheWordShaker says:

    You realise that
    a) not only is it true that John Green rocks but
    b) that the Nerdfighter community loves it when people of critical acclaim say so publicly.

    Therefore, prepare to be burried under an avalanche of “thank you”s.

    Best wishes, thank you and DFTBA
    (from Germany)

  13. John L says:

    How do you know you have a great name? Did melville know ” Starbuck” kicked ass from the first moment he thought of it? Is Iago a great name in itself or because of the context and centuries of the plays admiration?

  14. Eugenio Bonello says:

    Something Italian. Perhaps Trovato (one who is found, or little foundling) or Peccati (sins)

  15. Jesse says:

    Schmulia and Willoughby are both my favourite. Schmulia-Willoughby, perhaps.

    And as a nerdfighter and a huge fan of your work, I approve this message.

  16. Jaymes Wade says:

    I say Lancaster or Pasternack!

  17. Grace says:

    Julia Reese!

  18. Adam says:

    Julia Dryden

  19. Little My says:

    Just read the Time list; my to-read stack now has a very topply-looking future. I went looking the other day for when Nick Harkaway’s next book is coming out: March 2012. I wonder if “Gone Away World” had crossed your path. I read it around the same time as Magicians and loved it, too.

  20. Silvia says:

    Julia Pierce

  21. K. M. Walton says:

    I have been anxiously awaiting The Fault in Our Stars. Loved both Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines.

    Looking for Alaska was one of three books that inspired me to write Cracked (The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Going Bovine by Libba Bray were the other two). I didn’t know young adult fiction was allowed to be so real…so raw…so authentic. Now I know.

  22. Maggie says:

    As soon as I read Ogden I thought “Yes. Julia Ogden. Done.”

    But I love lists of names so this was a delight to read no matter what.

  23. Heather Head says:

    I rather like Wicker. It’s so… pedestrian, but also lovely and soft. All of which she so obviously is not, but her parents are. Although Ogden and Pierce are nice too. They both have a certain upper-class appeal that sounds like her parents.

    In any event, I’m grateful that you don’t use last names. I just finished the first five books of the Ice and Fire series and I have to say… it’s not quite a Russian novel but I certainly got plenty lost in the names and titles and banners and intrigue. I would have given up on it if I hadn’t liked Jon and Arya and Bran so much–nice, simple names I could keep up with!

    Sorta like Julia, Quentin, Janet, Eliot… Elaine, Eleanor… Penny, Alice (sniff), Josh… Last names would merely get in the way.

  24. Charlotte says:


    And I just finished The Magician King, in some crazy read-frantically-all-day kind of scenario. Brilliant. Thank you so very much for it. Again, as with the last one, I shall be buying other people copies.


  25. J says:

    Julia Gulia made the list. Glad to see there are still fans of “The Wedding Singer” out there. 🙂

    And yes, TFioS was AMAZING. I was constantly choked up for the last 60 pages.

  26. Matt D. says:

    I damn near cried from happiness when Fogg rattled off the last names of Eliot, Alice, and Janet in The Magician King. It was a random little point of curiosity that just kept growing. When I saw the names on the page, I immediately grabbed pen and paper to write them down so I wouldn’t forget. Please ignore how pathetic that is…

    For what it’s worth, I like Pierce or Lyons.

  27. […] but is backed up by a surfeit of reviews attesting to its quality – including raves from TIME book critic Lev Grossman and now an A- from Entertainment […]

  28. Asturai says:

    From that list I would go with Lennox or Wicker. They both have a certain fluidity with Julia. Also, if it’s not too late, I do have a nomination. What about Castler? It is a name I tried to use once and I believe it would be a good fit. It is fluid with a spice of whim. Julia Castler.

  29. Sam M-B says:

    I would abstain from voting, but both Wang and Morales are intriguing choices.

  30. […] it that I had to finish the rest of the book and now I can’t stop thinking about it. I had read a review somewhere that said it was as good Catcher in the Rye,  which I have read multiple times starting in 1987. I disagree. It was better than Catcher in […]

  31. John L says:

    Just finished The Fault in Our Stars. I never cry and I cried my eyes out. You must read this book but bring a box of Kleenex.

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