I have to admit that, up until stumbling upon this book, I did not know what paper towns were. Looking back, after have finished reading the book, it would have probably been better to not know what paper towns were, ensuring a much bigger surprise and impact from the final chapters of the book. But it’s all good because I did not spoil everything with this knowledge. But maybe you do not want to spoil it, so that’s why I am beginning the book review with this little warning.
“Paper towns” is yet another book written by famous youtuber and author John Green. By now you have probably heard about “The fault in our stars”, a book that has made it to the big screen with much anticipated success. Just as the book “The fault in our stars”, “Paper towns” is also a young adult novel, described as a coming of age story, which was also adapted for the big screen with the release date on July 31st 2015 (Romania). John Green truly has a gift because he is able to write so well and in an authentic way from a teenager’s/young person’s perspective, this being a big variable to his success I think.
The main character in “Paper towns” is Quentin “Q” Jacobsen. When he was a kid he met Margo Roth Spiegelman and was forever enchanted by this amazing human, as he imagined her to be also throughout their high school years, although they hadn’t been much in contact. There were always good stories to be heard about Margo, about great adventures she’d been on, and how she disappeared from home at times leaving small clues behind.
One night Margo was set yet again for a closely planned and complex mission for which he chose Q as her companion in mischief, all explained by her like this:
“Tonight, darling, we are going to right a lot of wrongs. And we are going to wrong some rights. The first shall be last; the last shall be first; the meek shall do some earth-inheriting. But before we can radically reshape the world, we need to shop.”
And so a part vendetta-part rewarding night began to unfold. But the next morning, news of a new Margo disappearance disrupts Q’s day. Compared to her other escapes, this one is different in the sense that no obvious clues are left behind. But Q believes that that Margo surely left something behind indicating to her whereabouts and soon enough clues begin showing up. That is how Q’s own adventure begins in trying to put all the pieces together and wanting to find Margo, at times being afraid that she might have done harm to herself. There are songs, singers, poems and a Wikipedia-like website named Omnictionary and also maps and a very long road trip between friends that are involved in the search for Margo.
Besides the coming of age theme of the book, there is also a very interesting one about identity and perception of people. John Green puts it like this:
“Isn’t it also that on some fundamental level we find it difficult to understand that other people are human beings in the same way that we are? We idealize them as gods or dismiss them as animals […] 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.”
This is essential in the relationship between Q and Margo especially, but not limited. Lots of characters in the book have different perceptions of who Margo is, but only at the end of the story you can sort of figure her out as a character, because the image of her is developing throughout the story. So Q’s process of finding her, after she disappeared, is also a process of finding who she really is. I am keeping details about this from you on purpose. You’ll have to read the book to find out the specifics.
All in all, I really recommend this book because, like from other John Green books, I learned about new things and gained perspective on different problems. Also, there is good humor to lighten up your mood and intellectual and authentic talks to make your mind wonder. Another thing that I noticed and began to appreciate about John Green’s stories, this being the third book of his that I read, is that you do not get the satisfaction of a cliché happy ending, but rather a different satisfaction of a story with a realistic and very right end put to a tough journey and much needed evolution for the characters through which you learned a lot about them, but also, probably, a lot about yourself.