Paper Towns by John Green
Published: 16 October 2008 by Dutton Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♡ ♡
Paper Towns has been on my TBR list forever and I finally got a great excuse to read it when it was chosen as the August Forever Young Adult Book Club read. I’d only read one of John Green’s novels prior to Paper Towns (*gasp* I know) and as I’d heard the hype about his other books I was looking forward to getting stuck in.
Quentin, or Q as he is known to his friends, is a perfectly “well-adjusted” 18-year old close to finishing his senior year of high school. Relegated to the lesser ranks of the high school hierarchy, Q is forced to pine after Queen Bee Margo Roth Spiegelman, his longtime crush, from afar. Until one night when his routine is disturbed by Margo and he is drawn into a night of revenge and reflection on the fakery of their town and people in it. Q believes that things will change after that fateful night but little does he know that Margo has a whole lot more in store for him following her sudden disappearance the very next day.
“…maybe she loved mysteries so much that she became one.”
I was hooked as soon as I found out that Paper Towns was a mystery as I’m a total sucker for detective/mystery/crime fiction – even more so when it’s a YA book. The plot drew me in and had me guessing and playing detective alongside Q but this was one of those books where the ending is not as important as the protagonist’s journey of character development. I liked the way that Q finds his stride and confidence throughout the book but also learns how his preconceptions of the people around him may be unfair and unfounded.
Q has a really unflinching narrative style saying things exactly as they are (high school is a “divine-right monarchy”, anyone?) He also has an awesomely dry sense of humour at times which lightened the otherwise ‘heaviness’ of the book. There were so many good quotes in Paper Towns that I almost ended up highlighting the entire thing on my ereader!
“Peeing is like a good book in that it is very, very hard to stop once you start.”
John Green is never one to shy away from complex issues and one of my favourite things about Paper Towns was the use of a Walt Whitman poem to show how our preconceptions of people may overshadow who they actually are. Our reading and understanding of a poem is coloured by our personal opinions and background and I think the same can often be said of how we respond to people we don’t know. John Green explores this idea brilliantly in Paper Towns and it’s great to see complex ideas like this in a YA book.
I would have liked to see a bit more of Margo in Paper Towns – I was conscious of the fact that we mostly see Q’s rose tinted version of Margo and at times felt detached from the character to the point of indifference towards her disappearance. Also it irked me a bit when Q seemed to prioritise Margo’s disappearance over his best friends and even resent them for not taking as much of an interest but it did illustrate just how determined he was to find Margo.
So, although I had a couple of niggles with Paper Towns, I found it a solid read in the vein of John Green’s other books and if that’s your cup of tea you’re in good company. Paper Towns reminded me a lot of classic coming of age stories, where it’s less about the ending and more about the journey, so I think it would be perfect for fans of Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
Are you a fan of John Green? If you’ve read Paper Towns are you looking forward to the movie? Let me know in the comments below 🙂