Tuesday, February 26, 2013

REVIEW: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns
by John Green

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” 

Quentin has had a special connection with his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman ever since they both found a dead guy in a park together when they were kids. They grew apart and are now in high school and he is a nerd, but he still feels deep down he knows the popular, funny, gutsy, effervescent girl. Then, one night, she crawls in his window and whisks him off on a night of bitter pranks and adventure. And then she disappears, leaving cryptic messages that seem to be only for Quentin to follow.

John Green books are tricky. They start out deceptively simple, and then wallop you with a whole sack full of truth. When I began to read this book, it felt like a first attempt at many of the ideas he played with in Looking for Alaska. However, Looking for Alaska was his first book. I worried he was just re-hashing the same material, and in some sense, he does. Troubled Manic Pixie Dream Girl has issues while the average timid Everyman must rise to the occasion and figure her out. However, while Looking for Alaska was about grief and finding your place in the world, and what you think of it, this book is how you never really know people. No matter how hard you try. John Green has talked about this many times; how literature is one of the few ways you can get inside a person's head and know them. In real life, everyone has their own picture of who you are, but none of them are complete. You assign meaning to actions, box people into categories. You are surprised when they "don't act like themselves." But in the end you can never really know what "themselves" is. I guess the only way you can really deal with that is to treat everyone with compassion.

The book itself is wonderfully funny, especially the scenes between Quentin and his friends. John writes excellently unique and unashamedly flawed characters who all speak in very distinct voices. I tended to like them even better than the glorious Margo Roth Spiegelman, but I think that was on purpose. The road trip sequence was perfection, and the drunken party where Quentin was sober rang very true.

I also love love love that John Green uses classic literature to underline messages in his YA books. He integrates it into the story, and shows how the classics can speak to us. This one makes you (and hopefully teens) want to read Leaves of Grass.

I wish I had more to say, but it has all gotten a bit fuzzy, since I read it a few weeks ago. Catching up!

Books Like This:
Looking For Alaska by John Green

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