Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Posted February 28, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 16 Comments

Paper Towns

by John Green

Paper Towns

Original Publication Date: March 2008
Length: 305 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Obtained Via: Gifted
Format Read In: Paperback
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Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back 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 Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

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Sigh. I WANTED to love this book. I wanted it to blow my expectations out of the water and show me all sorts of glorious things and be the best story ever. After all, it has John Green’s name by it, right? And I loved Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars.

But I didn’t need to read this book–or rather, I already had read most of it. I’ve heard people say that John Green writing is formulaic before, but I don’t think I realized just how formulaic it actually is, and how transparent I found this book. I’ve seen John Green mention before that this book is basically about the deconstruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and while it’s quite a good deconstruction at that, once you realize that sort of driving force, Paper Towns ceased to become a story for me and became a lesson.

Then again, all great stories teach us lessons. But the story should still stand up on it’s own merit, and I would hope for a less transparent end goal for the book. Paper Towns was just. . . I mean, I’m not sure the story really stood up on it’s own, especially since it’s so similar to other John Green books, at least in terms of characters. Quirky, nerdy, smart boy and his bunch of friends, along with the girl they’re all chasing.

I should probably set the record straight now that I actually did LIKE Paper Towns, despite my problems. Yes, the story is thin and has too many elements of Looking for Alaska in it for me to really love it, but on the whole, I enjoyed most of the time I spent reading it. And whatever else I might think, there’s no denying that I love John Green’s prose. He never uses long turns of phrases or detailed descriptions, but he’s excellent at distilling complex thoughts into a few words that just ring out with truth.

I liked the last half of the book best, once Q has figured some things out and realized that maybe the Margo he’s had in his mind this entire time is not the actual Margo. This realization comes in bits and pieces, but once the first piece falls into place, Q becomes much easier to root for as a main character. That’s the idea, of course–that Q needs to see people as who they are, not his idealized version of them–but it takes awhile to really take hold. And of course, I can’t deny the growth that Q’s character shows, especially along his journey to find Margo.

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I enjoyed certain aspects of this book, but I really wish it had been more original to stand apart from John Green’s other books. While I loved the prose and thought the story was okay, I was a bit put-off by the how similar parts seemed to Looking for Alaska, especially the characters. Of course, I enjoyed Looking for Alaska so I enjoyed this one as well, but it doesn’t quite stand up to it in my mind. Decent for the time, but not a book I think I’ll return to soon. This one is on the (weak) side of 3 cupcakes. 

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3 Stars

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16 responses to “Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

  1. Ohhh. If you didn’t like it, I will DEFINITELY steer clear haha. I think I’m just not a John Green fan, to be honest. I didn’t quite love The Fault In Our Stars and had some minorly serious (too much of an oxymoron?) issues with the characters but enjoyed (most of) the plot. I enjoyed more things about An Abundance of Katherines (the characters) BUT I didn’t quite connect with the story. Things just don’t seem to click with me and John Green so I may kick this one off the list!

    • Stormy

      I like John Green, but not as much as everyone else seems to. LOVED Looking for alaska, liked The Fault in our Stars, and was pretty meh on this one. His stories seem pretty hard to connect to(for me). Maybe I would have liked them more as an actual teenager.

    • Stormy

      Yeah. . . that’s the main problem I have! I think he’s a good writer, but I dislike that his characters fit the same standard tropes over & over.

  2. Kelly

    I haven’t read anything by John Green, and this doesn’t really make me want to. The more I read about him/his books, the less interest I can muster up for his stuff.

    • Stormy

      Yeah, I totally get that. I dislike some things he says, but I also think several of his videos are very much worth checking out. It’s sort of a mixed bag, but I think I enjoy his videos more than his books.

  3. Papers Towns was actually the first John Gree book I ever read. Of course, I’ve only read two of his books, so that’s not really saying much. I listened to this via audio, and I liked it. Maybe I have a little bit of a hard time understanding this manic pixie girl, but seriously, I’ve never known a girl like that. But I did like Q, and his friends, and I liked their road trip. However, do I think this book will stick with me forever? No.

    I actually think I like John Green’s videos more than his books, in general. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. 🙂

    • Stormy

      I like JG videos better than his books too! I enjoy his videos & what he typically says in him. His books? Eh. . . We can stick together!

  4. TFIOS is the only John Green book that I’ve read and I’m honestly okay with that. Between Tumblr, I feel like I know everything I need to know about the rest of his books. I really enjoyed TFIOS but I wasn’t in love with it and people say that’s the best book…but I am curious though. So maybe I’ll check out the rest eventually.

    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

    • Stormy

      Tumblr does love JG’s books. Now that I’ve read 3 of them, I think I’ve discovered his work maybe as a whole isn’t for me. I liked TFIOS, but I didn’t love it either. Personally, I like Looking for Alaska much better, but I think TFIOS is probably better written.

  5. Cait

    Oh no! I didn’t want to know this! Noooooo. Okay, okay, I’m done. 😉 My sister bought this for my for Christmas and I’m STILL getting around to reading it (pretty shocking of me, actually) but I was so dang excited for it! I really hate it when author’s books start to sound the same. I usually feel a bit cheated to be honest. And I really LOVED Looking for Alaska (although I kind of felt like it was just a YA version of Bridge to Terabithia). Still. I’m definitely reading this, I’ll just try not to have huge expectations.

    • Stormy

      Well, I still hope you liked it better than I did!
      I never thought about Looking for Alaska being a YA version of Bridge to Terabithia, but I can definitely see it now. They have similar storylines.

  6. I agree with so much of your review of this one!! I recently finished Paper Towns, but it made me begin to grow tired of John Green and it was only my second of his books. While the story was well-constructed and fun, I still felt disconnected from it. I did, however, appreciate that this seems like the type of novel that would spark a love for reading in a “non-reader”, especially teen/YA aged. But for me, it didn’t quite hit the mark either.

    • Stormy

      ooh, good point on the “non-reader” part. I think so too. And I think maybe I would have liked this one more if I hadn’t already read two of his other books. They just all feel so similar to me!

  7. I have this theory *kind of?* about John Green. Paper Towns was the first book I read by him and I loved it so much but as I continued to read his books, I just got into them less and less. Are they too similar? Maybe. I have NO idea. But I continue to say this is my favorite book from him, and I didn’t have that much of an emotional response to Fault. (I even waited to read it, and I cry over everything so I don’t know why i got so numb.)

    • Stormy

      I think that totally makes sense. I’ve noticed each book I’ve read by JG I like less. I think they’re well done, but I lack the emotional connection. I loved Looking for Alaska, liked The Fault in Our Stars, and was okay with this one.

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