Paper Towns by John Green

After reading the stellar Fault In Our Stars by John Green, I decided to check out some of his other novels. In Paper Towns Green tells the story of high school senior Quentin Jacobsen. Q, as his friends call him, is a pretty average student. He's one of those kids who is not part of the popular groups of students, but is not really a nerd either. Rather, Q goes about his day making good grades, hanging out with his best friends Ben and Radar, and not making many waves. His psychologist parents are very proud and supportive of their son and are excited to see him start college in the fall.

Margo Roth Spiegelman is the it girl on campus. She only socializes with the popular kids and has a jock boyfriend. She has a unique charm about her that makes even her closest friends long to know her better. Margo and Q have lived next to each other their whole lives. When they were very young, the two discovered the body of a man who committed suicide. After that dramatic incident, they began to interact less and less. All these years later, Q still finds himself enamoured with Margo, but she has done nothing to reciprocate. 

All of that changes one night when Q is awakened by a knock on his bedroom window. He is surprised to find Margo standing outside. After years of silence, Margo is there to see Q and she needs his help. Margo explains that her boyfriend is cheating on her and she has planned an evening of revenge. With Q's help, the two embark on an evening that sees her get the ultimate payback on all of those who did her wrong and culminates with the duo breaking into SeaWorld. As the evening draws to a close, Margo begins to speak to Q about her hopes and dreams and her desire to one day leave the "paper town" that is Orlando. 

The next morning, a groggy Q heads to school excited to relay his adventures of the previous evening to Ben and Radar. More importantly, he is eager to continue his new found connection with Margo. But Margo isn't there. He comes home to find the police at Margo's house. Margo is gone, and Q can't stop thinking about her. Her parents inform him that Margo has run away in the past and left clues for them. This time she has left clues for Q. As he begins to investigate the missing Margo, Q gains insight into the mystery that is Margo Roth Spiegelman, and ultimately discovers more about himself in the process. 

Once again John Green has crafted a novel that captures the fun, mystery, and emotional complexity of growing up. The characters ring with an authenticity that makes them extremely relatable and engaging.  The plot is driven by a mystery that keeps the pages turning while still allowing for the the characters to evolve. Many readers have lamented at the anti-climatic ending, but I have to disagree with this assertion. While I did feel a bit let down as I read the last pages, reflection on the themes of the novel have forced me to accept that this was the only way for the story to conclude. Ultimately Green creates a unique study of the fictional and even wishful projections that individuals place on each other. While Paper Towns does not end as I wanted or expected it to, it is still a rich journey that challenges the reader while still entertaining. 

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads

(2015, 13)

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