by John Green
Original Publication Date: March 2008
Length: 305 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Obtained Via: Gifted
Format Read In: Paperback
View at the Traffic light:
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.
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.
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.