Quentin Jacobsen has spent almost his whole life loving his next door neighbour Margo Roth Spiegelman. There was a time when they were friends, as kids, but now the Queen Bee hardly acknowledges his existence at school.
So when she shows up at his bedroom window one night, asking him for his help on an elusive mission, Quentin can’t help but be confused. Before he knows it, he’s dragged along with Margo on the craziest night of his life, as the pair pull pranks on all those who’ve ever wronged Margo.
After their fun-filled night is over, Quentin is certain things will change between him and Margo. He goes to school the next day looking forward to seeing her, but Margo is not there. Nor is she there the next day. Or the the day after.
Margo Roth Spiegelman is gone and doesn’t seem to be coming back. As Quentin embarks on a quest to find and bring back the larger-than-life Margo, he discovers that the girl he thought he knew doesn’t exist, realising for the first time that people are rarely who we think they are, and never who we want them to be.
After finishing and highly enjoying John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, I treated myself to two copies of his books; this and Looking for Alaska.
I had originally decided to read Looking for Alaska first, since it seemed like the more popular one, but after my brother borrowed Paper Towns and read it in under a day, I knew I had to read this one right away.
And I’m so glad I did. Like the quote on the front cover said, Paper Towns was “profoundly moving.” This book stole my heart and made me feel like I was standing on the edge of a cliff.
John Green excels at creating dynamic, brilliant, unique characters. Like Colin in An Abundance of Katherines, Quentin is hilarious, passionate, and so incredibly real. He’s a nerdy guy, who’s definition of being late to school is being twenty minutes, instead of thirty minutes, early to class. He’s spent his whole life admiring and loving Margo from afar, and when she comes to his bedroom window that fateful night, he struggles to stay within his carefully constructed world, or to break the rules for her.
Margo herself was a force to be reckoned with. This book is about knowing people, and how rarely we actually do, and Margo’s character proved this. When Quentin goes with her on her late night escapade at the beginning of the book, he has a version of her stored up in his head, and she proves to be completely the opposite. When she leaves behind a series of clues for Quentin to follow, he discovers even more about her, and all the truths she was hiding. And when we finally meet her again at the end, she is a completely different person from the one that Quentin has built up in his head from all the clues.
And this message of never really knowing anyone was a profoundly deep one, because as you read and learn about Margo, you realise how impossible it is to ever truly know someone. And Quentin learns this, first when he spends time with her and again when he follows her clues, that there’s so much Margo has been hiding.
Something else John Green does that I really enjoy is creating a loveable cast of real, dynamic characters. No one is a caricature, and everyone has their own story, from Quentin’s friends to his parents to his teachers. Quentin’s relationship with his friends, Ryder and Ben, is hilarious and heart-warming. When the book threatened to become too dark, I could count on them to provide some comic relief.
The only thing that that I wasn’t happy with was the ending. A part of me knew that there wasn’t ever going to be a ‘happily ever after’, but I still found myself a bit disappointed with the way things turned out.
Filled with a great message, Paper Towns is an exhilarating and moving read. Dark at parts, hilarious at others, it’s populated by a dynamic, interesting, cast of characters, who felt as real as my own friends.
So for that: 4.5/5.
Thanks for reading,