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.So, I'd read one of John Green's books, An Abundance of Katherines, and I loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I was a bit leery about reading another of his books, lest it be inferior in awesomeness and somehow taint the happy memory of the first. I don't know why I develop these weird reading phobias, but I do, and they keep me from reading really good books for too long.
And, yes, Paper Towns was a really good book.
But before I get to that, because it's important to me (and a lot of readers I know and respect), I'll break it down by content:
Language: There were a LOT of GD's. Just about every character said it, and it was said a good number of times1 throughout the book. Other than that, there were also a lot of S's and D's and the like. I cannot now recall if there were any F-bombs dropped on this beauty because I generally skip over them without even absorbing their presence.
There was also rather a lot of sexually crude language of the ignorant-teenage-boy variety.
Sexual Content: There was implicit language and one scene where it nearly happened, though not to a main character, but (thankfully) this was a pretty clean book in that respect. In fact, Q was a relatively chaste guy, and I really loved that about him. Virginity was, however, viewed as a thing to be lost or given away outside of marriage. It must be said, though, that John Green never uses sex lightly nor for no greater reason than to thrill the masses or sell more books. He is as thoughtful in his use of more-mature content as he is with his trademark wit, and there is always a lesson to be learned--that usually being that physical intimacy does not equate to emotional intimacy. I have a great deal of respect for John Green because he accepts, and even embraces that he, as a writer, has a responsibilty to his readers.
Violence: More of the ignorant-teenage-boy variety with a dose of psychotic bullies.
Okay, on with the show!
I've been watching a lot of Vlogbrothers lately, and it got me thinking about some things that John used in this book, such as how Quentin said, in my all-time favorite quote,
"You can't divorce Margo the person from the Margo the body. You can't see one without seeing the other. You looked in Margo's eyes and saw both their blueness and their Margo-ness."Notice the use of "you"? You didn't look in Margo's eyes, Quentin did; and if you did look in her eyes, I somehow doubt that you would see all that. John pointed out this phenomenon in Catcher in the Rye saying that Holden referred to you because it was too painful to say I when recollecting his youth and the girl he innocently held hands with.
Quentin seemed to be deeply infatuated with Margo, or at least the idea of Margo, yet he couldn't bring himself to say, "When I looked in Margo's eyes." It cost too much for him to admit that he, himself saw these things when he looked in her eyes, because he thought he could never be with her.
But that's not what makes this my favorite quote, that's just what makes this quote interesting in the framework of the story. What makes it my favorite is that everyone hopes to be seen this way. Despite all the work we put into our appearance--makeup, hair, skin care, clothing, likes and dislikes, all the time and energy, conscious or unconscious, that we spend on cultivating an image--what we really want is for someone to look past the strategically engineered facade and see our souls shining through our countenances2.
This quote and this line of thought, our ideas of people and how far short they fall of the real person, is really what the entire book is about.
As Quentin sets out to find Margo physically, he is also trying to find the real Margo--a window amid all the mirrors--and along the way he finds a bit of himself: What really scares him and how brave he can be, what kind of friend he is, what kind of friends he has3, and how to look through the cracks in the facade to see the light within. Also, how much minivans rock.
I give Paper Towns...
...4 1/2 zombies!
This is really a beautiful book. John Green is one of my favorite writers because of his truly unique style and wit and his uflinching honesty. I got this from my library, but I'll be looking to add Paper Towns to my personal collection.
you only think
1. It occurs to me that "a good number of times" is a really poor phrase in this instance. O Language, thou hast failed me!
2. And there's that "you" again. I suppose it's a sort of survival mechanism.
3. I'll tell you now: Q has the awesome kind of friends. Another of John Greens' talents lies in creating amazing friends for his protagonists.