Guest Blogger Austin Vitelli – a review of Paper Towns by John Green

paper towns

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!

Paper Towns
by John Green
Rating: 4/5

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!

Guest Blogger Austin Vitelli: Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer

I’d like to welcome my next guest blogger, austinv56 of The Philly Sports Report (http://austinv56.wordpress.com/).  He has reviewed Things That Matter, by Charles Krauthammer.

things that matter pic

Things That Matter
by Charles Krauthammer
Rating: 3.5/5

There is no doubt that Charles Krauthammer, graduate of McGill University and Harvard Medical School, knows what he’s talking about. He’s been a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post for nearly 30 years. He’s also a regular on Fox News in the Special Report with Bret Baier. His knowledge of U.S. foreign policy is unparalleled by many in the world, especially for political journalists such as himself. His life, as told through his columns, certainly makes an interesting story.

This book includes many of his columns from The Washington Post, as well as other pieces he wrote for Time, The New Republic, and Weekly Standard. He organizes it into three parts—personal, political, and historical—which are then subdivided by chapters depending on the specific topic. His pieces range broadly from Halley’s Comet to controversial art exhibits to speed chess. He discusses whatever he likes, and he makes it perfectly clear that he won’t be censored. These are smart moves, coming from the 1987 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for political commentary.  Things That Matter was a #1 New York Times Best Seller for eight weeks this year and has been a top-seller for the last nineteen weeks.

The most interesting section of the book in my opinion was the first section, in which he discusses many personal matters such as people who strongly impacted his life and various other things he’s discovered about the world. He even created his own law, Krauthammer’s First Law, in which he declares that “everyone is Jewish until proven otherwise.” If you’re looking for a book devoid of opinions, you will not enjoy this book. He makes his thoughts known again and again through his column, and he makes no attempt to hold back.

He cleverly puts the personal section first so as to not deter people who disagree with his political views from reading the book. Once you begin the politics section though, he immediately begins arguing his Conservative points, going against nearly every Liberal view possible. But, he does it in a way that’s not (intentionally) insulting because he’s able to argue his points intelligently and thoroughly. Of course, the extreme Liberal will likely find this book awful because of his views, but as a Liberal myself, I still found merit in many of his points.

So why only 3.5/5? Well, first off, his Conservatism begins to run rampant as he bashes nearly every action and non-action that President Obama has made, especially in foreign policy, to the point where you feel like you’re reading copy from Fox News (which maybe isn’t too wild of an accusation since he appears on Fox News often). He does do a good job of explaining all of his opinions, but he can often sound intellectually arrogant, a characteristic that no one finds appealing regardless of political affiliation.

Also, to fully understand his book, you will need access to a dictionary at all times. Going back to the intellectual arrogance, it can rub the reader the wrong way when using large, difficult words in literally every sentence, sometimes multiple times per sentence. Congratulations, you would ace the vocabulary section of the SAT, but that doesn’t mean you need to brag about your expansive knowledge of vocabulary by using words and references that, frankly, no one ever uses in writing or conversation. I understand this man is extremely smart, but there’s no need to intentionally sound superior.

Regardless, I still think it’s worth the read because he’s made many interesting observations about the world and has a very peculiar life story (psychiatrist turned journalist). With the far left Liberal like it? No, probably not. Has this made me want to turn on Fox News? No, not at all. Was I entertained by many of his stories and points though? Yes, absolutely.

About austinv56:  Austin is a Rodale Scholar and majors in Journalism at Lehigh University.  He writes about professional sports in Philadelphia and covers the Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia 76ers, as well as top NFL and NBA news.  At Lehigh he is a Staff Writer for the sports section of The Brown and White and is the newspaper’s official live-tweeter for sports events.   Be sure to check out The Philly Sports Report at:  http://austinv56.wordpress.com/!

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