Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows.
After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.
(This review will contain spoilers)
Quentin Jacobsen is a senior in High School. He’s the son of two therapists which makes him (or so he says) the most well-adjusted teenager in the world. He has two best friends: Ben and Radar. Radar is not his real name, they just call him that because he kinda looked like the character Radar from the old TV show M*A*S*H*. Except he’s grown about 6 inches and he’s black. But, the nickname stuck.
Then there’s this neighbour. Margo Roth Spiegelman. A girl with so much spirit that you can only call her by her full name. Margo and Q used to be really good friends when they were younger. But then they grew up and Margo became popular while Q stayed just Q.
That is until one night, Margo shows up at his bedroom window in the middle of the night, inviting him to an adventure that he will remember the rest of his life. She takes him all over town, helping her play pranks on her former friends and ex-boyfriend, who she caught cheating on her with her supposedly best friend.
Q thought that maybe now they can be friends again, after a night like that. But, the next day, Margo is nowhere to be found. This is not unusual for her, but then she doesn’t come back and Q is getting worried. He finds the clues Margo left in the most unusual places and he vows that he will find her, no matter what.
As some of you may know, John Green is not only one of my favourite authors, he’s also one of my favourite people. I Adore John Green with a capital A. The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska (click on titles for reviews) are one of my favourite books of all times. However, for some reason I’ve been slightly apprehensive about reading Paper Towns. I don’t know why exactly but something about it didn’t make me want to read it.
After having read the book it both did and didn’t live up to my expectations. The book is divided into three parts. The first part, which mainly consists of meeting the characters and the ‘longest night’, I loved. It was very entertaining and it was nice to see the interaction between Margo and Q. The second part, the part of finding and deciphering clues, I didn’t like so much.
We have this kid who has a neighbour, who he has been in love with forever, who suddenly decides to take off and apparently that he is the one who must find her. She leaves him all these clues, basically forcing him to look for her despite the fact that he’s in the last couple of weeks of his senior year. He has finals and graduation and time that should be spent partying. Instead he’s pouring over Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself‘, trying to understand what Margo was thinking and where she could be. Q, in turn, forces his friends along on this wacky adventure. Luckily for Q, they are up for the adventure most of the time. But when they aren’t, when they just want to be teenagers, Q is angry with them for not being more invested in the search for Margo.
This all would have been okay if not for the ending (SPOILERS AHEAD YE BE WARNED).
When Q and company finally do find where Margo is, which makes up part 3 of the book, they take a road trip across the country to find her. I did like this part except for the very end. They end up in this Paper Town, a fictional town created by map makers for copyright reasons, called Agloe, New York, where they find Margo literally living in a barn. That’s all fine, I didn’t want her to be dead so I was happy she didn’t kill herself. However, when they arrive, Margo is like ‘what the hell are you doing here?!’ and actually gets angry at them for not announcing that they were coming.
At this point I was like ‘whut?! Didn’t you leave all these clues just so they would come and find you? Didn’t they pass your test now?’ but apparently she didn’t think that Q would actually find her. After that it’s a lot of self-discovery and learning about yourself that make up the last few pages of the book. It was very anti-climactic to me. I was expecting a big reunion, or at least that Margo would be happy to see them. I didn’t expect her to come home but still.. it was weird.
In my opinion, this book is very similar to Looking for Alaska. Q, the innocent normal boy, is obsessed with Margo, the popular, smart, interesting, mysterious girl who disappears suddenly. Q is literally looking for Margo. Also, Margo is very similar to Alaska: she’s erratic, slightly selfish and hard to understand. I’m not entirely sure if we’re meant to like her, just like I thought that Alaska wasn’t necessarily supposed to be liked.
It took me a while to finish reading this book. The first and last part I skated through, they were the parts that I enjoyed most. But the second part was what stalled me. Nevertheless, it was all very well written and very enjoyable to read as I’ve come to expect from John Green’s books. There was a lot of poetry in this book, mostly Walt Whitman’s, which was hard for me as I have exactly 0 experience in reading poetry. So, I think that some of the meaning may have been lost on me.
All in all, I did enjoy reading Paper Towns and I will give it a 4 out of 5, points deducted for the middle and ending. Although I did enjoy reading it, it’s my least favourite of John Green’s books.
My Favourite Paper Towns Quotes:
“That’s always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they’re pretty. It’s like picking your breakfeast cereals based on color instead of taste.”
“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”
“Peeing is like a good book in that it is very, very hard to stop once you start.”
“Just remember that sometimes, the way you think about a person isn’t the way they actually are… People are different when you can smell them and see them up close…”
“The fundamental mistake I had always made – and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make – was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.”
“Nothing ever happens like you imagine it will . . . But then again, if you don’t imagine, nothing ever happens at all.”