Being a devoted Nerdfighter, I had to check out John Green’s new book, Paper Towns. Since other fans of Green had built it up to be the Greatest Story Ever Told, I wasn’t expecting much. I never expect dutiful fans to be particularly critical. Also, there was a great deal of anticipation built up around it, which tends to make people really enthusiastic during the first read. But, it was pretty good.
Synopsis (Spoilers): It’s your basic story. Boy (Quentin, or Q) knows girl (Margo). Boy and girl find dead guy together at the age of nine.
Fast forward nine years
Boy loves girl. Girl is barely aware of boy. Girl comes to boy dressed as ninja in the middle of the night, hoping to use his car and take him on a wild ride through town (which, incidentally, is not actually made of paper) spray painting things, removing eyebrows and throwing fish. Girl vanishes. Boy notices poster of Woody Guthrie on window shade of girl’s room (they live next door). Boy goes into girl’s house, and subsequently girl’s room, and finds tons of records and a book of poetry by Walt Whitman. Boy sees clues to girl’s whereabouts in book. Boy starts looking for girl. Boy realizes a great deal about the way people are perceived and the way they actually are. Boy (along with friends) finds girl in barn in (literally) the middle of nowhere. Boy and girl part ways.
Two Cents: I had two main problems with this book. First, the main character is a little flat and remarkably like the main character of Green’s first book, Looking for Alaska. Wonder what he was like as a teenager…
Second, all the revelations seemed to appear in the middle of the book, and then were reiterated at the end. This is unlike Alaska, where the main character has a wonderfully deep epiphany at the very end.
Let me say that aside from those two things, this was an excellent teen read. The gag about Q’s friend’s car being run on human hope and the line about emo poetry had me laughing to myself for days. Margo was surprisingly… human. Much more than I expected. She has flaws, but not in the usually teen lit martyr kind of way, i.e. “I’m so deep that no one can understand me! Oh, the pain, the pain of being so much more brilliant and poetic then everybody else!” And that’s what the book is really about. We look at people and expect them to be one thing, positive or negative, without really seeing them and considering what they might actually be.