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.
I wasn’t really planning on reading this book anytime soon, because I figure I should read my John Green novels in order of release: Looking for Alaska first, then An Abundance of Katherines and finally, Paper Towns. But sometimes, you will have some friends who absolutely love a certain book and they would not stop bugging you until you read that book they love, especially after they learned you got a copy (Hi Aaron!). So, Katherines, you’d have to wait for a while.
So yeah, I gave in, especially since I was still in the mood to read something contemporary after This Lullaby. It’s been mentioned a lot in other John Green reviews, but for the sake of discussion, I will mention it again: John Green’s cast of characters can come across as formulaic. There’s the geeky and awkward guy, the beautiful and imperfect unattainable girl and a couple of friends from the guys who will join him in the journey of discovering more about the girl and eventually discover more about themselves. This is also said about Sarah Dessen, and having read all her novels, I kind of agree. However, this doesn’t mean that her novels are boring, and after reading Paper Towns, I can say that same goes for John Green. They wouldn’t be staples in contemporary YA if their books didn’t have something good to offer, right?
In a word, Paper Towns was charming. I liked Looking for Alaska enough, but it was a dark novel and it’s not something I’d read to cheer myself up. Paper Towns is the opposite — it’s happy, but not bubblegum/fluffy happy. If I were to classify what kind of happiness this book has, it’s the victorious kind of happy: the joy you feel after you finally achieved something you’ve worked hard for that also comes with some sort of sadness when you realized that what you achieved isn’t exactly what you thought it was. John Green has perfectly captured the life of a senior who’s happy with routine in the form of the hero Q, and the life of someone who feels the need to get away in the form of Margo.
I know a lot of readers who disliked Margo, but I honestly didn’t find her so bad. I think maybe it’s because I felt genuine empathy for Q’s plight, on how he wanted to find her so much that it hurts him inside just to think of her. There’s a sense of desperation inside Q that I find familiar — the desperate need to hold on to the image of the girl he loved up until he realized that there was more to her than what he’s always thought of. I have to admit that I’ve felt like that a lot, and it’s caused me so many disappointments. Often times, I have an image for the guys I like, and I cling to this image so much that I put these guys in a pedestal where they can do no wrong. Once reality slaps me on the face, these guys become people and I find myself being shattered with the expectations I have about them. That’s not saying that the guys I liked were bad people; it was more of being affected by how much I wanted them to be “The One” when it’s too early to say anything about it.
Now Margo. Like I said, I’m probably one of the people who did not dislike her. I admired her for being brave enough to do what she wanted. Granted, it wasn’t the most well-executed plans, but actually going through with doing what she wanted despite the consequences is something I applaud. I wonder if I will be brave enough to do what she did and leave. Leave what, exactly, I do not know yet. I find myself wondering how Q felt when he said this:
It is so hard to leave — until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world. (p. 229)
I guess I will never know until I do so myself.
There were so many things in Paper Towns that can be discussed, and I bet I’ll pick up something else here if ever I decide to re-read this sometime later. This book is very re-readable, and I think the pacing helped that. John Green managed to keep enough suspense and mystery throughout the book without making me feel like I’m going around in circles. And like everyone else, I loved the last few pages of the book. Poignant and bittersweet. :)
My favorite character of all in the book, however, is Radar. You just have to love the ultimate geek in their trio, whose parents own the biggest collection of black Santas in the world and who will drop everything just to help out a friend.
Paper Towns is a great book. I’d say it’s awesome, but right now I’m going to give the final verdict to this book after I have read An Abundance of Katherines. But if you’re looking for a good contemporary YA novel, Paper Towns is a very good place to start. :)
→ It’s charming, heartwarming and bittersweet all at the same time. A definite must-read (and re-read, I’m sure). I must also note that I loved the title, and the what it means. If you’re looking for a good contemporary YA novel, this is definitely one you should pick up. :)
2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 91 out of 100 for 2010
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked
Cover & Blurb: Goodreads