John Green – Paper Towns

Posted on | October 25, 2010 | 7 Comments

John Green's Paper TownsIt feels like ages since I’ve read a young-adult book, so when I read a review of this book over at Claire’s (@Paperback Reader), I wanted to read the book. Plus, I loved the cover! Reason enough to order this book after a self-imposed four month book buying ban? I think so.

I’ve read a couple of reviews on John Green’s books, Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, and the reviews have been quite positive as well, so, unsurprisingly, I had high expectations of this book. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint. It was a fast-paced page-turner, with incredibly well-drawn out characters, an intelligent plot, and all-in-all, it was just great fun to read.

The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightening, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the Queen of England or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman

Quentin (or Q), the narrator, has been in love with Margo since forever. As children, they were friends, until they stumbled upon a dead body at the local park. Discovering the dead body changed the relationship between the two nine-year-olds. That night, Margo stood outside Quentin’s window, to let him know of the “investigation” she had carried out as to the cause of the death. She loved mysteries and adventures, so much so that, in Quentin’s words, she became one. After that night, the two friends just drifted apart.

Fast forward to the future, a few weeks before their high school graduation: one night, Margo re-appears at Quentin’s window, looking for an ally on a crazy retribution mission – against an ex-boyfriend and two former best friends – which also includes breaking into Sea World, just for fun! Quentin’s grown up to be more cautious and circumspect, whereas Margo’s the polar opposite, and during the night out, the two reconnect, and Quentin’s convinced that things will be different in school from the next day.

But – Margo’s a no-show at school the next day. And the day after. She’s basically just disappeared into the oblivion, and no one has any idea as to her whereabouts. But she’s left a trail – breadcrumbs, if you like – and it’s up to her friends to follow them, for her parents aren’t overtly concerned, considering she’s pulled the disappearing act before.

This book is about Quentin – and his search for Margo. It’s about Margo – and her search to resolve the issues she’s battling. But it’s more than that for both the teenagers. It’s about Quentin figuring out who Margo really is, underneath her ultra-cool demeanour and totally chilled out perspective on life, and eventually, unraveling the mystery that is her. And all this is done with immense story-telling, including observations on paper towns and paper people and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, as well as scattered references to TS Eliot and Moby Dick.

“Here’s what’s not beautiful about it: from here, you can’t see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You can see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made of plastic. It’s a paper town. I mean look at it Q: look at all those cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking beer that some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things paper-thin and paper-frail. And all the people, too. I’ve lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.”

Thought this was a fabulous book, that I really enjoyed reading, and immersing myself in. I’ll be looking out for Green’s other books, and can’t wait to read them, based on this! Have you read any of the others? What’s the verdict?

Also, have you read many books which have loads of Whitman references? If you’d asked me two months ago, I’d say no, but – I’ve read about three books in the recent past (Specimen Days, Paper Towns and Tipping the Velvet) with numerous Whitman references, which makes me wonder. And it’s not just Whitman, but specifically, it’s Leaves of Grass. Have any of you read that? I’m planning to, but it’s been ages since I’ve read any poetry, and I’m not convinced Whitman is the way to make my way back to the world of poems?


7 Responses to “John Green – Paper Towns”

  1. Joanna
    October 25th, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    This sounds great. John Green has been on my TBR list forever, so many bloggers rave about him. The one I have on my shelf is An Abundance of Katherines so I’ll be starting with that!

  2. Claire (Paperback Reader)
    October 25th, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

    I finished Looking for Alaska yesterday and -although I didn’t think it was possible- I loved it more than Paper Towns! They are quite similar in theme with a young, intelligent male protagonist searching for/attempting to understanding the object of his first love.

    I can’t recall the Whitman references in Tipping the Velvet and now I am really curious… I read Leaves of Grass and Song of Myself during a 19th Century American literature course at uni but forgotten most of anything I learned about Whitman!

  3. Coffee and a Book Chick
    October 25th, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

    I’ve been really enjoying a lot of YA books lately, and I never expected to! This one sounds great as well, can’t wait to pick this one up — great review!

  4. Erin
    October 25th, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    This sounds fantastic! I still haven’t read anything by John Green, but I did pick up a copy of An Abundance of Katherines at a used book sale, and I have Will Grayson, Will Grayson out from the library at this very moment. It sounds like I should stop waiting and jump in!

  5. She
    October 26th, 2010 @ 2:28 am

    I just bought this book at Borders, so I’m stoked to see a good review of it!

  6. Alita
    November 2nd, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

    I love this book – not only because of the great story and characters, but also because of the discussion of how we view people and the whole windows and mirrors thing.

    It’s by far one of my favourite books I’ve read this year.

  7. charley
    November 21st, 2010 @ 1:09 am

    I recently finished Looking for Alaska, and if you like Paper Towns, you might like that one too.

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