Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Published: October 2008
Read: June – July 2015
Who is the real Margo?
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew..
Oh, the disenchantment of adolescence.
Paper Towns is a quintessential coming-of-age story that deals with romance, identity, and, above all, teenage angst. Our hero, Quentin Jacobs aka Q, is graduating from high school as a straight-laced student who loves routine and doesn’t find monotony boring, only to have the end of his senior year disrupted by his manic pixie dream girl, his next door neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman, and her elaborate hijinks.
I must confess: I didn’t really think much of Margo. Her character didn’t particularly interest me and I didn’t care for her when I was seeing her through Q’s adoring eyes. Was she worthy of Q’s adulation? Maybe. Did I care for her? No.
I did enjoy the sharp contrast between their characters during the first part of the book, when Margo had her night of vengeance to those who had wronged her. Q’s anxiety, worry, and need to “play by the rules” complemented Margo’s caprice, impetuousness, and desire to “throw caution to the wind”. Their character dynamic explored the nature between the head and the heart.
Something I found really compelling in the book was the difference between loving the idea of someone and actually getting to know said person. It really explored the way we tend to elevate certain people to god-like status and idealize them without really knowing them at all. It’s dangerous to put someone up on a pedestal because they can never actually live up to those expectations. Margo’s friends and classmates imprinted their ideas of the perfect, mysterious, popular girl onto Margo, and she struggled under the weight of that. Q, in particular, fell for the image he had of her as this fearless dream girl. The twist ending humanized her.
Q’s monologue at the end about really seeing a person who was once an idea was so profound to me. We see each other through out cracks in which we let the other person in and show them our vulnerabilities. He’d spent the whole book trying to picture the real Margo, but ultimately failed until he discovered the true reason she ran away. And then. the entire book made sense. She wasn’t just escaping a “paper town”, but she was escaping being a “paper girl”.
I like how John Green embeds literature into his books, like Imperial Affliction in TFIOS and now Leaves of Grass in Paper Towns. I find it interesting how the literature makes the reader connect more with the characters, like it’s a window into their souls or something.
Anyway, Paper Towns was great at the beginning, dragged on a bit in the middle, and had an excellent ending. I enjoyed having the mystery finally solved in a way that I least expected it. If you’re looking for a fun summer read that isn’t riddled with cliches, look no further than Paper Towns.
“Margo always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that she loved mysteries so much that she became one.”
“What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”
“”Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.”
“All that wild charisma and wanderlust.” (on Margo Roth Spiegelman)
“All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm.”
“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”