What I’m Reading: PAPER TOWNS by John Green

Another John Green book. What can I say, I’m an addict, I guess. It’s not my favorite by John Green. But it’s still pretty fabulous.

Summary from the inside jacket:

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back 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.

Like always, Green manages to take a typical teenage struggle and write it with such grace and effectiveness. Oh, the ever-present conflict of seeing people as you think they are, versus seeing them AS they are. Such is high-school. So many people get caught up in acting the way they think they need to act, that everyone begins seeing a mirrored version of the real person. I remember this distinctly from my own high school days. I’m guessing it’s still the same. And probably because many kids find themselves in high school, and many more realize they want to be someone different than who they’ve been so far. Green tackles this idea so eloquently in PAPER TOWNS. Mirrors and windows and seeing the person, not the idea.

Now, let me talk about Ben. This is Quentin’s best friend in the story. A lot of other reviews I read described him as flat, one-dimensional, and cliché – not to mention annoying. But I have to admit, I dug him. I thought he was hilarious. I thought he was very high-school-boy. I can recall numerous guys I knew in high school who were exactly the same. Confident and stupid, loud and belligerent, full of sass to the upmost degree, and very, very immature. Ben made me chuckle the whole way through the book. I can see how some reader’s found him annoying, although I kind of think that was the point. Radar, Q’s other best friend, was also fabulous. He was a bit more mellow, had his own quirks (like the Wikipedia substitute), but he was still believable. And I admired how he stood up to Quentin and pointed out Q’s faults when necessary. Margo, too, was written wonderfully. I didn’t love her with the same fervor Q did, but I certainly saw her appeal. She was eccentric, strong-willed, and a bit of a mystery.

Now, another important character. Enter, Walt Whitman. Margo goes missing and leaves a variety of highlighted passages that Q believes to be clues within Whitman’s  “Leaves of Grass”. Q spends much of his time analyzing the poem “Song of Myself.” Through this one piece of work, Q manages to learn an awful lot about both himself, Margo, and how he has viewed people his entire life. In the same way that a piece of work lead to a dramatic conclusion in LOOKING FOR ALASKA, Green manages to do the same here. The best part is, you barely realize it’s even happening until all of a sudden, POW, it has.

So, is it worth the read? Yes. Go read it, now. Unless you hate Walt Whitman. And even then, it’s probably worth a try. Because Green once again captures the essence of growing up, especially the closure that comes with a senior year. The feeling you will never, ever be in this very place again. The difficultly in leaving, only to find that once you leave, it really wasn’t that hard at all. And the ever-persistent problem of seeing people, which is a problem not only in high school, but in life as well.

No one is a greater mystery or miracle or adventure or untouchable creature. We are all people. Just people. As John Green says best, “What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”

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