THIS IS MY VERY FIRST REVIEW!
Book: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Paper Towns is set in modern day Orlando, Florida where Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman are neighbors. The two have a sort of childhood friendship, and as they grow older they grow apart as they become two very different people. Quentin has grown into the familiar pattern of marveling Margo from afar, until one night she requests his presence for a crazy all-night adventure to get revenge on a few classmates who have severely wronged her. The next day, however, Q finds that she’s gone, and he’s not sure if she’ll be coming back. She’s left him clues that take him to things he’d never have done on his own and he struggles through the seemingly impossible task of finding her. As he searches, Q learns a few things about people and about the way we view each other.
As a whole, this book was incredible. It skillfully balanced wit and thought provocativity-ness (that is SO not a word) and the dialogue was hilarious to a point that I did not even know was possible. The chemistry between all of the characters was amazingly well developed–the friendships and relationships were so very real and believable. Not to mention how constantly i was diving for my post-its to mark some page that perfectly put into words some of those feelings or thoughts that I’ve have but wouldn’t know where to begin to describe. Authors that truly understand both their characters and their audience and then write their stories with such raw honesty are very valuable finds. I now have such a different way of looking at how we view the people around us, and I’m incredibly glad to have read this book. Paper Towns is a truly excellent story, and definitely a must read.
Rating: 8….okay 8.7
NOW ONTO THE FULL REVIEW!
(there are spoilers all up in this business!!!)
I’ll be totally honest. TFIOS was a brilliant novel and I really did enjoy it, but it just wasn’t enough to convince me of the gold-star genius status that people tend to hold John Green to. Paper Towns, however, pretty much obliterated every shred of doubt I was still harboring. I mean, the book was incredible.
There is just SO much in it, so many mind blowing things to discuss that it’s simply impossible to get to it all and I don’t even know where to start…..I have so many notes flying around right now.
I guess that the best place would be to begin with Margo’s last name, Spiegelman. In a Q&A video about PT (I’m giving it an acronym because if TFIOS gets one then Paper Towns deserves one too!), John Green said that Spiegelman is actually a German word for “mirror maker” and that he picked it because “when people look at her they don’t see anything that’s essentially true about Margo, what they see is some funhouse mirror reflection of themselves.” pointing out that no-one actually ever saw the real Margo, who was really a paper girl. They saw someone who practically dripped awesomeness. Quentin was, of course, especially guilty of this and always saw Margo, as a lot of people did, as this adventurous and magnificent enigma who he marveled at from afar.
What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.
I especially LOVE this theme and it rings very true for me as a highschooler, where paper people are at the top of the high school food chain (that metaphor never gets old) and they are surrounded by people who worship them and view them as untouchable entities. This book gave me such a fresh perspective on that.
There are tons and tons of other ways to show how we mis-imagine people in this story as well. The way Margo was always planning her big adventures, the trip to Mississippi specifically, and then not even really enjoying them, just liking the idea of having done them. Or the journey that Q went on to find Margo and how it contained so much more craziness and drama than what actually happened when they found her. Just like Margo Roth Spiegelman herself; she was an enigma, and the actual her wasn’t at all what anyone imagined.
“And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn’t being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made–and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make–was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.”
While all of these mind-shatteringly deep ideals are what make PT such a moving and eye-opening story, all of the other elements to it are the reason why I love the book so much. It is important to make sure your readers are not too overwhelmed, and John Green balances intensity with plot-lines that are just really, really fun to read. Exhibit A: I was so, SO surprised at how much this book had me laughing. Whilst Radar, Ben, and Q discussed Radar’s fear of taking his girlfriend to his parent’s house because they own the second largest collection of black Santas in the world, I was laughing so hard that my sister was seriously contemplating my sanity. Seriously, who else could have thought of black Santas?? There were hundreds of other little hilarious and quirky tidbits; like the Omnictionary website and Radar’s devotion to it’s upkeep, Ben’s ongoing struggle of finding a prom date, the email exchange between Q and Jase about the incriminating picture, and of course the use of the word KERFUFFLE on page 263. (Yep, kerfuffle).Perhaps one of the greatest testimonies to John Green’s comedic genius however, was the roadtrip. Everything from them being naked under their gowns and having to go for hours like that to Ben peeing in a bottle to the unbelievably creatively funny dialogue throughout that entire section which had me laughing so hard I was in danger of suffocating from not being able to breathe for like a hundred pages.
All of that brilliance is not even to mention how much I loved the characters and how honestly John Green portrays them. They act and think just like graduating seniors would and their relationships are so very REAL. The chemistry between all of them really works and is incredibly enjoyable to read. This becomes especially apparent during the road-trip scene where they get conversations going and the dialogue is like a tennis match just bouncing back and forth so naturally between them all. Lacie is also one of my very favourite characters in this book. Someone Q and his friends thought to be a stereotypical Mean-Girl turned out to be a really complex, funny, and caring character.
All of the wonderfulness that this book contains came to a ginormous bang of a conclusion. Earlier in the story, Q’s dad planted this idea of not being able to really understand others and not being able to express ourselves correctly either; we think of people as somehow either more or less of a person than we are. and then during the conclusion we get two sort of “explanations”. Margo starts talking about her and how she thought of Q as a paper boy, someone with flat dimensions, until that night she realized he wasn’t paper at all, he was very real and he was someone she really liked. And then Q explained understanding of others like interconnectedness–grass is all interconnected and the idea helped him to actually think of Margo like a person which ultimately brought him to her. Then he talks about cracks in a vessel and how then light can get in and light can get out, the light being an understanding and it being a way we can really get each other–this transfer of light.
“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”
And then all of a sudden there’s like this click and we realize that this whole journey and all those discoveries have lead to Q becoming so real, and so completely him. And Margo….she’s no longer a paper girl. Having gotten away from people’s various Margo’s and all the different ideas of who she is, she was finally able to start being more herself than ever before. They were both more themselves and had so much more understanding and they could really, truly, GET each other. The ending is seriously perfect for this book. I loved that Margo stayed because she needed to really be herself, and Q really got that and also knew he had to leave her in order to be himself….and then that very last paragraph. It melted my heart with perfection because it tied everything together flawlessly and beautifully. I absolutely loved it.
“I feel her hands on my back. And it is dark as I kiss her, but I have my eyes open and so does Margo. She is close enough to me that I can see her, because even now there is the owtward sign of the invisible light, even at night in this parking lot on the outskirts of Agloe. After we kiss, our foreheads touch as we stare at each other. Yes, I can see her almost perfectly in this cracked darkness.”
Seriously, John Green, BRAVO! This is the type of story that changes the way people view other people and the understanding of others as well as ourselves. It has given me the gift of perspective carefully wrapped inside lots of laughs, many more “woooah’s”, and even a few tears. Thank you for this beautiful read.