I’d like to welcome back my guest blogger, Austin, of The Philly Sports Report. Today, he has submitted a review of Paper Towns, by John Green. Austin is a student at Lehigh University and is an aspiring sports writer. You can check out his blog and website at: http://austinvitelli.com/. Thanks Austin!
by John Green
With The Fault in Our Stars movie being released tomorrow, it seems like all of the talk about John Green is about how amazing the movie is going to be. Well, this review is actually about one of his other extremely popular novels and the next one of them that will be made into a movie, Paper Towns. It takes place in Orlando, Florida, as narrator Quentin, or just “Q” as his friends call him, goes through what his life was like at the end of his senior year of high school and his crush on his next door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman.
I use her full name because, well, John Green feels the need to say it like that almost every time she is mentioned, even when characters are talking about her. Saying her full name is necessary because Margo Roth Spiegelman is essentially the “queen” of the school whom everyone envies for one reason or another. On a string of late night pranks, she introduces the idea of a paper town to Q, suggesting that their town inside Orlando is a paper town full of paper people.
What she means by this is that in the end, everyone is fake and nobody cares about anything that actually matters. Thus, everyone is basically just “paper.” But, “paper towns” takes on another meaning: a subdivision that was never fully developed and was left either half-built or was never built at all. When Margo runs away without telling anyone just a few days before graduation, Q becomes obsessed with finding the girl that he has loved deep down for so long.
He searches through all the local subdivisions to find her, thinking she’ll be in one of them. His obsession basically takes over his life, and he begins to appear as the “bad friend” among his best friends, Ben and Radar. As the story progresses, each character begins to show how he or she is paper. Ben spends half the book talking about how he’s the biggest “ladies man” to never have an opportunity to actually have a girlfriend, and then becomes obsessed with prom. Q gets upset at the turn that Ben has taken, but Radar makes a point that that’s how Ben is, not the person who Q hopes he is.
Q is paper because he cares about the idea of what Margo is without getting to know her as an actual person. He suffers the same problem with Ben. He wants Ben to be who he wants him to be, and is disappointed when he’s not. As for Margo, almost everyone has a paper view of who Margo is. They may view her as a queen, but deep down, she’s just a person like everyone else. I found this concept very intriguing in a world where many people are either materialistic as they get older, or, for younger people around the characters’ age, care a lot about popularity and social status. Margo uses the metaphor of paper towns to point out that people are sometimes just people, and to not think of anyone as someone better than they actually are.
While I really liked most of the book and can clearly see why it was a New York Times Bestseller, I do have a few qualms. Q’s obsession with finding Margo and unlocking her takes over the book and everything he cares about to the point that it seems unrealistic for even a piece of fiction. The lengths that he goes to find this girl made me roll my eyes more than once, and made his friends roll their eyes even more. He becomes “the bad friend” for only caring about his own issue, and continues to shove the issue down the throats of all the other characters. I’m not sure how this can be avoided, but it seems like Green went a bit overboard with it.
Also, the concept of a guy desperately trying to unlock the mystery of a girl he loves but can’t have is the same concept as Green’s other novel, Looking for Alaska. It’s an easy concept to draw a lot of readers in because more than one guy has dealt with this (and it’s a surefire concept to draw in the female audience). But, it just seemed a little too similar to use in both of the novels. Sure, it’s a great concept, but it seems like he copied part of the formula of Looking for Alaska in order to get another top-selling book.
Regardless, the pros outweigh the cons and make this a book definitely worth reading for lovers of the young adult genre, as well as the John Green fanatics. So as people flock to see The Fault in Our Stars in theaters, don’t forget that Green is not a one-hit wonder. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to writing books.
Thanks for visiting – come back soon!