Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

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Neighbors since they were two and friends until they were nine, Margo and Quintin have a special connection that will last the rest of their lives. One night, near the end of senior year, after not talking to each other for at least nine years, Margo knocks on Quintin’s window and asks him to help her complete eleven tasks throughout the night. All of these tasks, good and bad, are important to Margo and she needs Quintin, and his mom’s mini-van, to help her accomplish them. Throughout the night, between anxiety attacks, Quintin falls even more in love with his mysterious neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman.

The next day, after the adventure of a lifetime, Margo isn’t at school. Quintin assumes she skipped because they were out until 6 AM, but the next day passes, and the next, and still no Margo. With the help of his best friends, Radar and Ben, the three guys set out on a woman hunt to try and find Margo with only few mysterious clues she has left behind. Throughout their journey, they make new friends; learn more about the girl behind the blue eyes, Margo; and discover the in and outs of Orlando, Florida.

Paper Towns by John Green is an interesting read. I can’t say I liked it, but I really can’t say I disliked it either. As far as page-turners go, this one wasn’t as addicting as The Fault of Our Stars by John Green, but the story still kept me interested throughout the entire novel. The book is a mystery and I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next, hence the page turning, but I was able to put it down and take a break from it for a day or so.

The novel is divided into three parts. The first part revolves around Quintin and Margo’s adventure, the second part is about the search for Margo, and the third part is about, well I can’t tell you because John Green does not like spoilers.

I liked the tie in of Walt Whitman’s poem, Song of Myself: Leaves of Grass within part two of the novel; part two is full of quotes from the poem and analysis, perfect for anyone who has to figure out what Walt Whitman is really saying in regards to meaning and metaphors. I never particularly liked the poem; although I do like Walt Whitman, of course I kind of have to because I am from the Philadelphia area. Quintin finds the Walt Whitman book in Margo’s room and believes it to be a clue to finding her. He reads and rereads the highlights she has made, hoping to figure out what they all mean.

I didn’t feel attached to the characters in Paper Towns, and at the start of the novel, I really thought I would. Radar and Ben are band geeks, just like I was in high school. Quintin isn’t actually in the band, but only hangs out with band kids. On the very first page I said to my husband, the protagonist in this novel is my soul mate, he was not amused. But, as the story moved along, I became annoyed with the high school senior year type story. Somehow, the cool kids became friends with the band geeks and they all partied together because high school was ending. In the real world, this doesn’t happen.

Even though I didn’t feel a connection with the characters, I really did like Ben and Radar. I laughed every single time Ben called the girls at school “honeybunniess” and I found Radar’s obsession with his website pretty comical as well. I also really enjoyed the fact that Radar’s family had the largest black Santa collection. You don’t get to read about many male friendships in novels, and I think this was a good portrayal of boys being boys.

At the end of the novel, I felt relief; I was happy to be finished and was completely ready to say goodbye to everyone in the story. I felt like the last part of all three parts drug on, even though it was the shortest.  I feel satisfied with how it ended, a feeling I haven’t been feeling a lot at the end of a novel. Everything that had to be said was said and everything that had to be done was done.

I did enjoy learning about paper towns, though, and how they are places on maps that don’t actually exist. I am now determined to find a paper town of my own. Once, our GPS said there was a Dunkin Donuts in our neighborhood. Would that be considered a paper coffee shop?

All in all, Paper Towns by John Green was just okay. If you like John Green, you will probably enjoy this book, but I wouldn’t recommend starting with it as your first John Green book. If I had read this before The Fault in Our Stars, I probably wouldn’t have been so eager to get another one of his books. Even though I didn’t love Paper Towns, I am still looking forward to reading Looking for Alaska, another John Green novel.  Anyone who enjoyed this book would also enjoy reading The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time by Mark Haddon.

To learn more about John Green and his other novels, check out his website!

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