“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”
– Paper Towns, John Green
The book is narrated by high school senior, Quentin Jacobsen (or Q to friends), who is irrevocably fixated on his neighbor and crush-since-childhood, Margo Roth Spiegelman. Since they were little, Q has always considered Margo to be particularly special. And so all the way through high school, Q continues to marvel at Margo, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the actual Margo may be different from the idea of Margo that he’s conjured up all those years (i.e. she was the ideal girl).
The two grew apart in high school though — Margo hung out with the popular kids, while Q was friends with band geeks (although he wasn’t really a member of the band himself). Their apparent difference in reputation, however, was immediately chucked when Margo runs to Q one day, inviting him to go on an adventure that would “seek to right a lot of wrongs and wrong some rights”.
But what Q didn’t know at the time was that their little adventure would be the last they would have for some time. Margo has since chosen to flee Orlando for particular reasons.
And so Q’s search for Margo begins.
On the upside, I like what Paper Towns is about: searching — searching for lost individuals (in this case, our heroine), real friends, a good adventure, and one’s identity. What I like even more is how the book is so essentially John Green — it’s in the last few pages when you realize that his work isn’t merely coming-of-age; it represents deeper things that he is able to translate into relatable, everyday circumstances.
There were, however, several aspects to the book that I didn’t like. For starters, I thought it borrowed a lot of elements from Looking for Alaska (read my review of that book here). Margo reminded me so much of Alaska, just that she was a little more peculiar and bitchy and selfish and immature. (Thus, the Margo character annoyed the hell out of me.) The two narratives also entail some sort of search for the title lady character — somewhere along all the story telling, I just kind of got bored. (What was the point?) Anyway, these things were just too familiar for my liking; I thought, surely, the story could have been more original and imaginative?
What else? Hmm I hated that Quentin was so madly in love with Margo (or the idea of her) that nothing else mattered. I thought there were so many instances in which he was bordering on pathetic. So yes, at one point I did sort of hate on Q, too.
Don’t get me wrong though, I thought the book was okay, as a whole. It does have its moments, but I had a hard time dismissing its rough patches.
Paper Towns is definitely not John Green’s best work, in my opinion, but I wouldn’t say it wasted so much of my energy and time. (Green’s book with two other authors, Let It Snow, is a different story. Read my review of that book here.) I would give this a 3 of 5.
In other news, my finishing Paper Towns means that I have officially read all of John Green’s books. Hooray! Please click on the “John Green” tag below to view reviews on his other books.
If you’ve read this book, let me know what you think about it!