Book Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
John Green is an American author who specializes in books for young adults. He has become very successful in the past few years and has the awards and titles to prove it. Two of his most popular books include his debut novel, Looking for Alaska and his most recent book, The Fault in Our Stars. Looking for Alaska won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature in 2006. When The Fault in Our Stars was released in early 2012 it was at number 1 on The New York Times Bestseller List and was recently turned into a movie which became number 1 in the box office. To top it all off, in 2014 he made it on Time’s 100 Most Influential People List. Aside from all of his literary achievements, he has invented a charity called “Project for Awesome,” launched an event known as “Vidcon” and he and his brother, Hank Green, run a popular Youtube channel.
John’s third book is called Paper Towns and follows around a teenager named Quentin Jacobsen who has always been in love with his neighbor, the mysterious Margo Roth Spiegelman. Quentin, otherwise known as “Q,” has been infatuated with Margo since they were friends as children. But after they found the body of a man who committed suicide in a park they lost touch. Years later when Margo climbs through Q’s window and recruits him as an accomplice in her carefully laid out plan for revenge on her cheating boyfriend, he is shocked but agrees to help.
After a whole night of shenanigans, Quentin is excited to talk to his new friend Margo, but she is no where to be found. Q doubts that she left without an agenda and figures she had to have left some kind of clue. So once he breaks into Margo’s room, clues are exactly what he finds. Clues that give Quentin hope that he might be the one to solve the mystery of Margo Roth Spiegelman.
Something that Quentin finds himself struggling with throughout the whole book is trying to understand Margo and how she works. When Margo initially approaches him at his bedroom window in the middle of the night he is mesmerized. Over the next couple days following Q and Margo’s nighttime adventure and Margo’s disappearance, Q realizes that he knows absolutely nothing about the girl he'd fantasized about since his childhood. He’s only known Margo Roth Spieglman, the most popular, pretty, mysterious girl in school but that’s all anyone knows. Margo herself is an unsolved puzzle. But once Q starts finding all the secret clues she leaves behind he learns more about her which leads him to questioning himself.
Paper Towns has it all, humour, mystery, romance and concepts that many young adults will surely relate to. John Green is known for writing books that showcase a teenage boy who fantasizes over an unattainable, mysterious girl who somehow ends up changing their life. But he creates such interesting, outgoing characters and his writing style is so well thought out, clever, and sometimes even poetic that it doesn’t seem like a corny love story. Something that John Green does really well with is his use of language, he knows exactly how to word things to make everything as believable as possible. The conversations had in the book and the thoughts his characters express make complete sense with the mind of teeangers and that’s why his books are so popular. Teenagers and young adults understand and enjoy it. But don’t let that fool you, I’m sure almost any adult would really enjoy any book written by John Green. I would recommend Paper Towns in particular to anyone who is 13 or older, since it is a book written about a bunch of high school seniors there isn’t much of a filter and some of the things the characters say and/or think might not be what all parents want their kids to be reading about.
I have read two of John Green’s other books aswell, Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. I finished each of the three books within a very short time period because I couldn’t put them down. I was never bored while reading them and was sucked into the character’s world quickly because John Green’s writing grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. I don’t really have anything bad to say about any of his books except for the fact that I was a little let down by the ending of Paper Towns, not that it was bad I was just left wanting more.
All in all, John Green is a very talented author and the popularity surrounding his books is for good reason. You should definitely give at least one of them a read because you won’t be disappointed.
Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Penguin
Date of publication: October 16, 2008
Number of pages: 305
Genres: Young adult fiction, Mystery
Paper Towns is a fantastic, interesting and unique novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I was very eager to read this following how much I loved An Abundance of Katherines, and I decided that I had to read it before I saw the film due to my golden rule: read the book before you watch the film. And this book did not disappoint…
Our protagonist is Quentin 'Q' Jacobsen, whose boring life is turned upside down when the stunning Margo Roth Spiegelman moves in next door. To the young Q, Margo is an adventure. It's all fun and games until one day Margo and Q come across a dead body.
Years later, our two main characters are in high school and have drifted apart. They hardly speak until Margo climbs into Q's bedroom and invites him to join her on a mission of revenge. They have their night of adventure, but when Q wakes up in the morning, Margo has vanished. The main plot follows Q and his friends as they try to uncover the cryptic clues Margo left behind…
This is a very cleverly written plot. The trail of clues gives the book a driving force, something that makes you want to read on. It balances the comedy and the diary-like stories with the mystery brilliantly, by mixing them together. The two are inseparable.
My favourite element of the plot is the three sections. The book is split into three parts, namely The Strings, The Grass and The Vessel. These represent the three metaphors used throughout the book. Each section focuses on one of the metaphors, and it is mentioned in a number of forms. It also sets the atmosphere for each section: The Strings is about breaking, and irreversible change; The Grass is about friends, family and memories; The Vessel is about journeys and final destinations. This was a very clever move that I haven't seen in a YA novel before.
In my opinion, the best thing about this book was the discussion of identity. The book focuses on each character's different idea of Margo, and eventually their realisations that she is just a person like them. There is so much I could say about the importance of the ideals in this book. The metaphors are beautiful, and really interesting. There are some gorgeous phrases that I would love to steal for my own writing. To give you a taster, my favourite quote is this..."It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and constantly misimagined."
John Green has done a remarkable job at balancing the metaphors and philosophical discussions with developed characters and some really funny comedy. Q is relatable as our main character, a teenager who is at a bit of a lost point in his life. He does what most people would do in his situation, and is interesting without being precocious or cringe-worthy. His speeches are really well-written, and reveal a lot about his personality.
Q's best friend Ben was a character I disliked throughout the most part of the book, with his derogatory language and backstabbing personality. However, I think he added drama to the plot, and most readers can relate to having a friend like him. I really liked the character of Radar, Q's other best friend who is more intellectual and into posting on a site meant to be a parody of Wikipedia. In the second half of the book, we get to know Lacey, a former popular person and enemy of the three boys who befriends them and helps in the quest to find Margo. She was a character who I grew to like gradually, but by the end of the book I could see how necessary she was to solving the mystery.
Throughout most of the book, Margo is more of an idea than a character. Everybody has different memories of her, and so sees her differently. Q's idea of Margo evolves through the story, and her character becomes steadily more complex. Even when we discover the real Margo, she is still one of the most complicated characters in YA.
Paper Towns was one of the funniest books I have come across in ages. There is ongoing snarky wit in the first two parts, mainly coming through Q's reactions to the strange things Margo seems to have done. A lot of comic relief also comes through Ben, particularly when he is drunk. Despite this, in my opinion, the funniest part of the book was the road trip towards the end. I won't spoil it, but it is crazily random and had me actually laughing out loud. Not only this, but the book almost has its own language of inside jokes: Black Santas, catfish and beer swords are all involved.
If I had to find a criticism for this book (a hard feat), I would say the plot starts to drag slightly in the middle. There is a period where the clues all slow down a bit, and the humour is lost. That said, it picks up again with a major discovery.
The ending of this book will break your heart. It's sad, but it feels right given the rest of the story. Everything is pulled together. I loved how the metaphors recur throughout the story, making everything flow together.
I've recently been thinking that all John Green books seem to have a common language. I smiled every time I saw references to his other books. For example, the three metaphors and the famous 'It's a metaphor,' from TFIOS, and the road trip and Katherines.
I could go on and on about this book, but I'll stop there. To conclude, Paper Towns is a remarkable and funny book with great characters and beautiful metaphors. I would recommend it to fans of any other John Green book, or fans of any similar YA authors, such as Rainbow Rowell. But to be honest, I think anyone and everyone could gain something from reading this.
• Buy this book at the Guardian Bookshop.
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