Paper Towns Review

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Paper Towns by John Green ~ 4.5/5 stars   {spoiler free review}

Last night, I stayed up until 2am finishing Paper Towns.  It has been sitting on my TBR shelf forever, and I cannot believe it took me this long to pick it up – because it was stunning.

The story follows Margo and Quentin during their senior year of high school.  They grew up next door to each other, and when they were younger they were good friends – but as they have grown up, they have also grow apart.  Margo is one of the popular girls in school.  And while Quentin has a solid group of friends, he exists on the lower end of the social order in their school.

Despite the fact that Margo and ‘Q’ (as Quentin is referred to) have not been close since they were young, Margo comes to Quentin randomly one night, and asks for his help in accomplishing a list of various revenge seeking/good deeds/slightly illegal things around town that she has carefully planned out.  As the story progresses, we discover that Margo has a purpose for every single Margo thing that she does – but at the time, Q thinks that their night of adventure is just Margo being spontaneous,  and he is kind of confused about the whole event.  Why did she come to him after they have barely spoken for years?  What is really going on in her head?

One of their many stops of the night is to the SunTrust building in downtown Orlando.  From the top of the building, you can see the whole city.  They stop to look out over the city – they can see their houses, and their school, and Disney World.  Q remarks that everything looks beautiful and more impressive from far away.  Margo disagrees – saying that from up high, you can see the big picture of how fake the town is.  She says that “All the things [are] paper-thin and paper-frail.  And the people, too.  I’ve lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.”  This is the point in the story where Margo begins to reveal who exactly she is.  She is someone who thinks bigger thoughts and dreams bigger dreams than everyone around her.  She isn’t content to just graduate high-school and go to college and get a job and have a family and live in what she calls a ‘paper town’.  She wants more.

The next day, Q is prepared for life to shift, now that he has discovered this new friendship with Margo.  But she doesn’t show up to school.  And after a few days, the news gets out that she has run away.  This is not really anything new for Margo, as she has run away several times in the past.  And, whenever she runs away, she leaves clues about where she is going.  But she always comes back.

This time is different, though.  Because Margo hasn’t come back.  And when Q starts finding clues that she left for him, he decides that it is up to him to find her before it is to late.  So, he recruits some friends – which end up being an interesting mix of the popular and unpopular crowd, because both Q’s friends and Margo’s care about finding her – and they start out on a journey to puzzle out Margo’s clues and find wherever it is she is leading them.

One of my favorite elements of this story is the strong, unlikely friendships that are formed during the course of the search.  In the end, the main group consists of Q, Ben (Q’s best friend), Radar (another friend of Q’s), and Lacey (Margo’s best friend).  But the most solid friendship that is formed over the course of the book is between Q and Margo – yet the strange (also brilliant) part about it is that Margo is missing for the great majority of the book.  She isn’t present, but she is at the same time.  Through all of her clues, Q becomes closer to her than he has ever been.

Q becomes convinced that the only way to find Margo is to learn who  Margo, the real Margo is.  At one point in the story, Q comes up with yet another theory about why Margo left, and Lacey comments that it doesn’t sound like something her Margo would do.  This starts Q thinking about all the different Margos that there must be.  His Margo, Lacey’s Margo, Margo’s parents’ Margo….  “All of us looking at her reflection in different fun-house mirrors.”  Once Q discovers that Margo isn’t really any of the versions of herself that others have created, he finally begins to understand who she truly is.

The majority of the books is the journey to find Margo, mixed in with the everyday life of high school seniors – prom, finishing classes, graduation.  It is an emotional roller coaster for sure.  John Green has created such a brilliant story, and a fabulous main character in Quentin.  I feel like I haven’t read a book from the POV of a guy for a while, and it was so well done.  As Q is discovering that the real Margo isn’t the Margo that everyone sees, the reader is sort of finding that same thing out about Q.  There are several scenes where Q is alone with his thoughts, and the real Q is revealed – if only for a moment.  He is such a pure, strong character.  And every emotion that he feels, the reader feels deeply as well.

Paper Towns is just such a fantastically put together story.  The only reason that I am not giving it the full 5 stars is because of language.  I mean, I realize that everything in the book is realistic to a high school situation – but honestly, I felt like the story could have been just as good (and authentic) without so much of that.  And I feel like I can’t recommend it without making that clear.  But, that said, it is an incredible story and a rather quick read.  It is one of those books that just pulls you out of your own reality and completely immerses you into the world of Margo and Q and the rest.  So yes, I highly recommend Paper Towns. 🙂

 

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