Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Publishing Date: 2009
“If I am ever told that I have one day to live, I will head straight for the hallowed halls of Winter Park High School, where a day has been known to last a thousand years.” (pg. 21)
“That’s always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they’re pretty. It’s like picking your breakfast cereal based on color instead of taste.” (pg. 36)
“It’s so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest god-damned thing in the world.” (pg. 192)
“Before he was this minor figure in the drama of my life, he was—you know, the central figure in the drama of his own life.” (pg. 267)
Synopsis: Margo Roth Spiegelman and Quentin Johnson (Q) grow up as neighbors. Even though a traumatic childhood event ties them together, they’ve never been more than mere acquaintances. That is until their senior year in high school when Margo shows up in Q’s bedroom window one night and convinces him to join her on a spree of vengeance-fueled pranks. After spending the night wreaking havoc on their frenemies together, Margot doesn’t show up for school the next day. Instead, she vanishes—leaving clues as to where she has gone in her wake. Clues that are just for Q.
I loved The Fault in Our Stars. I loved it so much, I even read Looking for Alaska (which is a big deal because I prefer not to re-read authors). Paper Towns was selected by my book club for our February read, and I was excited to have an excuse to pick up Green again.
That being said, this book reminded me exactly why I don’t re-read authors.
Having read all three of these Green books, it’s impossible to miss the similarities. Green builds the same relationship between the central male and female characters. One is unfathomably amazing and sophisticated and desirable and unattainable. And the other is hopelessly in love with him or her.
Such is the set up for Fault and Alaska and alas, for Paper Towns–with Margot as the endless object of Q’s completely one-sided affection.
What Green does so well, however, is capture the essence of uninhibited teenage infatuation, youthful exuberance, and even adorable immaturity. His portrayals of teenagers are so accurate they’re both amusing and nostalgic.
Part I of this book—the all-night prank extravaganza—sets Paper Towns up for success with a quick pace and plenty of action. Likewise, Part III—the graduation-day road trip—is engaging, dynamic, and full of humor. It’s Part II that felt labored, repetitive, and painful, like taking the longest route possible to get to a destination.
Despite that, this book was enjoyable to read overall. And even with an accurately portrayed juvenile ensemble, it managed to touch on some complex and critical adult themes—identity, vanity, what makes life worth living, and how much do we truly know about ourselves and others. From screennames to dialogue to teenage eccentricities, Green once again captures the essence of humans at their most vulnerable age—when we struggle to know nothing and everything all at the same time.
Overall: 3 out of 5
Who Should Read This Book: If you’re an adult who loved other John Green books, I wouldn’t read this one. If you’re someone who hasn’t read other John Green books, I would read The Fault in Our Stars or Looking for Alaska, but again, not this one. But if you’re a detached, misfit, or misunderstood teenager looking for a relatable read with some important heavier themes, Paper Towns is the Green book for you.