“Peeing is like a very good book, in that it is very, very hard to stop once you start.” –John Green
Though I may not know readers’ opinions about peeing, I do know that once they start “Paper Towns” by John Green, they too will find it very, very hard to stop.
Paper Towns is the story of Quentin Jacobsen, a lower rung on the high school social ladder who hangs out mostly with the band geeks. Quentin, or Q, isn’t very sociable, and doesn’t stray far from his tight-knit group, which includes his best friends, Ben and Radar. Most importantly, Q is the neighbor of the glorious Margo Roth Spiegalman. Margo was Q’s childhood playmate, and is now the love of his life, and an unreachable one at that.
Margo is almost the exact opposite of Q: she’s highly popular, outgoing, and practically famous around school for her outrageous stories. Q seems to have no chance of even talking to her until one night when she opens up his window and whisks him away for the best night of his life. The two of them go on a late-night adventure of prank-pulling, getting revenge on Margo’s cheating boyfriend, two ex-best friends, and a bully who’s been tormenting Q. Everything seems to be great until the next day, when Margo is nowhere to be found.
Margo’s disappearance is nothing new, as she has run away from home for short spells before, but after a while, Q starts to worry. He, Radar, Ben and Margo’s ex-best friend Lacey start searching for Margo using clues that she left behind. This gets the wheels turning for a mystery journey that involves speculation, numerous dead ends, and eventually a day-long road trip.
Now this may seem like a typical young adult love story, and it may have been without the extraordinary and refreshingly different character of Margo Roth Spiegalman. Green takes this plot and turns it into something more. He perfectly describes the endless cycle that many middle-to-upper-class Americans have been caught in: always thinking of the future. Margo sums this lifestyle up well, telling Q how people never live in the now and only look to the future—getting good grades to go to a good college, getting good grades in college to get a good job, getting a good job to provide for kids, providing for kids so they can get good grades to go to college and on and on and on.
Not only does “Paper Towns” tackle the way suburban America lives now, it also provides thoughtful insight on how we as humans view each other. A major theme of the story is that humans only see certain parts of people. For instance, Q once saw Margo as almost a goddess, someone who was never bothered by anything. But as the story progresses, Q starts to see more of Margo, and learns that she is far from what he once thought.
“Paper Towns” is not only a fast-paced read, it’s also a thought-provoking and beautiful story. Most young adult books nowadays are about drama and gossip, or describe dark and horrible situations. “Paper Towns” manages to be a great novel by avoiding falling into either category.
Most high school students will be able to connect to “Paper Towns,” especially if they live in suburban areas, like the characters. I implore any readers from grades 9 and up to read this book.
Copyright 2009 Y-Press