When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night – dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q. Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers.
**Review refers to audio version of Paper Towns, listened to on a Playaway Audio device**
I love John Green books and I love any book that quotes The Mountain Goats, so that should give you some clue as to how this review is going to go if you want to just skip ahead to the star rating.
Paper Towns has John Green’s typical quirky characters and language. It also has sort of a younger, modern, more hip Stand By Me vibe to much of it. Good as it was, I had to make a conscious effort to judge it on its own and not compare it to TFiOS.
As far as characters go, Quentin (or Q) is a really likeable main character. He’s a smart kid with a good head on his shoulders, and his only fault seems to be that he idealizes his neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, to a degree where she becomes almost a mythical figure. As the book goes on, we find out that this is a mistake on his part. Margo is just the slightest bit irritating, but I suspect that’s intentional. She’s one of those girls who live completely oblivious to the real world and how consequences work, because everything has seemingly always come easy to them.
John Green’s trademark awesome prose is on full display here. Examples:
It was all here, my whole world, and I could see it just by walking around a building. “It’s more impressive,” I said out loud. “From a distance, I mean. You can’t see the wear on things, you know? You can’t see the rust or the weeds or the paint cracking. You see the place as someone once imagined it.” “Everything’s uglier close up,” she said. “Not you,” I said, before thinking better of it.
“Here’s what’s not beautiful about it. From here, you can’t see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever but you can tell what the place really is. You can see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It’s a paper town. I mean, look at it, Q. Look at all those cul de sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves. All the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at a paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things, paper thin and paper frail. All the people, too. I’ve lived here for 18 years and I’ve never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.”
I always felt you had to be important to have enemies. Example: historically, Germany has had more enemies than Luxembourg. Margo Roth Spiegelman was Germany. And Great Britain. And the United States. And Czarist Russia. Me? I’m Luxembourg. Just sitting around, tending sheep and yodeling.
“Yeah. I mean, he was something that happened to me, you know? But before he was this minor figure in the drama of my life he was, you know, the central figure in the drama of his own life.” I had never really thought of him as a person either. A guy who played in the dirt like me. A guy who fell in love like me. A guy whose strings were broken, who didn’t feel the root of his leaf of grass connected to the field. A guy who was cracked, like me.
I have found that when writing a review of one of John Green’s books, it’s best to just let John himself do the talking. Because I can’t imagine reading these quotes and NOT wanting to read the book.
As far as what kind of book Paper Towns is, it’s hard to categorize. It’s a coming of age novel, a revenge book, a road trip book, part mystery, but it’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s about growing up and realizing that people aren’t always who you imagine they are, and seeing what’s behind the facade of the people who we think we know. Not to get too over quote-y with John Green, but one of the lines in the book is “What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”
The audio is good. The narrator does a great job with Quentin and with the various other voices, including the female ones. My only minor complaint is that it’s even more annoying to listen to someone pretending to be drunk than it is to listen to someone who’s actually drunk, but that’s not a failure on the narrator. More of a fact of life.
Bonus trivia: every time Myrna Mountweazel the dog was mentioned, I giggled because the name cracked me up. When I went to look up how to spell it for the review, I found out that a ‘mountweazel’ is actually a name for a fictional entry on a map (or in a dictionary, etc.), much like a paper town. Well played, John Green. Also, Omnictionary exists. And I really want to play the game “That Guy is a Gigolo” the next time my friends and I are in the car.