Since I’ve been on a streak with male protagonists, I figured I’d share my thoughts on John Green’s Paper Towns. I believe this was published before The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska (I’ve read the former but not the latter), so this is his writing at before he became insanely popular. I’m aware there are people in the world who feel Green is overrated, but I beg to differ. I believe he writes real emotions which include the varying scale of fear, anger, love, and confusion. His characters aren’t obnoxious, they’re teenagers trying to understand their place in life.
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew…
I was going to summarize the novel in my own words, but the original covers it pretty damn well. This time around, I want to flip my usual routine and start with the pros instead of cons. A few things I thoroughly enjoyed with this is how unique the characters are. Each character involved has their own personal struggle with the events that are going on in the novel.
Though the focus is Quentin’s perspective, it’s easy to pick up how those are around him are supportive or becoming increasingly annoyed with his obsession with following Margo’s clues. Margo is especially interesting because of the impact she makes before vanishing after the first chapter of the book. The actions and words she leaves Quentin (and the reader) with make yo wonder why she’s done what she’s done and if she’s possibly taken her life in the end. She truly believes no one cares about her and vanishes from their little home in Orlando, FL without a trace. The scene where Margo’s parents simply can’t be bothered that she’s run away again makes you hope along with Quentin that he will find her and prove poor Margo wrong. Having been the second novel I’ve read by Green, I believe his writing forces the reader to face real emotions in highly plausible situations.
For cons, I have to say I’m slightly let down with the ending. I may just be overthinking it, but I wasn’t pleased with how Quentin and Margo’s interaction went down. Looking back at the final scenes, I believe I was expecting Margo to realize there is more in the world and that there is someone who genuinely cares about her, even if it’s one person. I guess I was also hoping Quentin would realize she wasn’t this great goddess and that she was just a regular girl trying to understand herself and the universe the same way he was. The way she set up the clues was as though she honestly wanted him to go looking for her, but when he did and succeeded, she was no different from before. Maybe I want too much from this and the true point of the final scene was that everyone is wrapped up in their own shit and sometimes we don’t realize other people are going through something too, but that final scene really killed the vibe for me on this.
Adding salt into the wound that was the end of this book was how bad the film adaption was. I didn’t hate it, but it definitely wasn’t what the book was trying to portray. They all go on this adventure to find Margo and kind of give up a bit when they don’t find her and ditch Quentin to go back and make it to prom on time. Then Quentin finds Margo (completely by chance, mind you) and they have a talk (can’t remember if they kiss or not, but there was totally a vibe going on) and she sends him back home to catch up with every one at prom. In all truth, it didn’t clarify my confusion or desire for a better ending. If I had to chose, I’d go with the books finale.
Don’t call me a hypocrite when I say I actually liked this book. Apart from the final pages that wrapped it up, I was with Quentin all the way and wanting him to understand the girl he fancied from a distance. I wanted him to conquer his fears and tell her how he felt or understand she’d gone off to live a better life away from those she believed never thought twice about her. I also wanted Margo to find peace in her life (assuming she hadn’t killed herself or died from lack of shelter/nourishment like Quentin worried about constantly). I wanted her to realize she didn’t need to run away to find happiness.
Maybe it’s the optimist in me, but I really wanted some idea of a happy ending for them even if it wasn’t ideal in any kind of traditional sense. Of course, this doesn’t mean Green won’t ever follow up on what happens to them after Paper Towns. Fingers crossed.