John Green’s Paper Towns is an onion. Peel it back, layer by layer, and it provides an entirely different story. It’s sweet. It’s sassy. It’ll make you cry. It’s both incredibly nonrealistic, and both incredibly real. It’s an enigma- like most Green novels, what you expect is never quite what you get.
It’s hard for me to write a non-spoiler-y review about this book, but I’ll try because the innate mystery of this novel is large part of its appeal. While nothing is intrinsically or intentionally scary, there are a few scenes that the suspense and the unknown is built up to such a large degree, that you’re positive something horrible will happen and you’re terrified of what it will do Quentin. There’s also the fact that I love John Green’s book so much- and therein lies the problem. Readers of Paper Towns fall just as passionately in love with this book as main character Quentin falls in love with Margo. John Green writes novels like poetry, with phrases that roll off your tongue and concepts that take you in their hold and refuse to let you go.
The first layer is the simple concept of normality. Normal boy Quentin leads an average teenage life and lives in a cookie-cutter suburb right next door to larger than life Margo Roth Spiegelman. Quentin has a typical school boy crush on Margo, the most popular girl in his school, but he understands the very realistic fact that nothing will ever happen between the two of them. Until something does.
Margo comes charging in with the second layer, heavy with wickedly thought out pranks and revenge tactics that make avid readers of Green think back to the namesake of Looking for Alaska,( and arguably John Green girls are a lot alike). Quentin is simply along for the ride- quite literally- in Margo’s life. One night is all it takes for absolutely everything to change. Change him. Change Margo. Change the whole world it seems. Margo busts in to Quentin’s room one night and includes him in the greatest night of his life, a night in which anything is possible and little is technically legal. One night and he stops seeing his Florida home as the background to his life, and starts seeing it the way she does- the cookie-cutter paper town that’s keeping her caged. Then next day at school, Margo is gone. And the next day. And the next day. And the next. And everything changes- again.
The straight and narrow plot is the journey and trials that Quentin and his friends undergo to find Margo. However, readers realize that this isn’t even the most important aspect. As Quentin tries to follow the clues Margo left for him, he learns more and more about what and who Margo is inherently- not- the enigma, larger than life, beautiful girl he fell in love with, but the flesh and bones person underneath. The girl he thought he knew was merely a name, a façade designed to hide the fact that nothing was ever really there. Margo Roth Spiegelman, the most epic girl he’d ever know, was a paper girl living in a paper town.
Paper Towns is about the constant struggle that some people face- the unyielding need to be so much more and break above the strict, conforms of society. Green weaves his story with his trademark humor and wit, telling stories of love, loss, fear, confusion, and realization, which leaves readers hanging on every word. Reading Paper Towns both put my life into perspective and made me incredibly restless. So here’s a warning: if you already have the inclination and desire to break free and live life on your own terms, don’t read this book. Because some day, you might be standing on a hill overlooking your suburbs with all their identical houses and cutesy street names and realize you live in a paper town too.
So what’s your favorite John Green book? Comment below and make sure to tweet @realjohngreen telling how much you liked the book!