"I never knew you until I got to know you through your clues," he says. "I like the clues more than I like you."- John Green, Paper Towns.
Paper Towns was written by John Green of the ‘The Fault in our Stars’ fame in 2008 and is by far the most complex and thought provoking of all his works. Set in present day Florida, it follows the story of Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Speigelman over the course of their last month in high school.
Quentin and Margo may have been friends when they were kids but as Q grows into a nerdy, shy and slightly obsessive teenager and in the typical American high school dynamic, Margo becomes the mysterious, popular girl, they find themselves near strangers. Until one night Margo decides to take Quentin along for a series of adventures.
The book is split into three parts, the first one being the most obviously exciting. Part one sees Quentin and Margo staying up all night to partake in the above mentioned adventures. But as they drive around Orlando, they find themselves reconnecting and Q falls even more obsessively in love with Margo.
Part two contains primarily Q, Ben (Loud, hormonal, annoying and into video games – a typical teenage boy) and Radar (Nerdy, Editor of Omnictionary (faux Wikipedia), patient, sarcastic and sensible). The three of them scavenge for clues that would help them unravel the mystery that Margo has become. This is the most profound bit.
In a classic John Green style, the third part is a road trip, the conclusion to Q’s story of the way he perceives himself, Margo and humans in general. Towards the end, the changes in Q become glaringly obvious. The development of characters is seamless, as we watch Q go from idolizing Margo to accepting her. Margo starts off as alluring and idealistic but becomes increasingly more flawed and consequentially more real.
The most interesting part about Paper Towns is that the story, exciting as it is, seems like a façade for John Green to hide the real message – the complexity of human beings. Margo is often seen by Q as enigmatic and flawless, while his very best friend thinks of Margo as selfish and inconsiderate. Even as a reader, one becomes aware that Q’s narration is biased and unreliable and that there are more sides to her.
The story is narrated from Q’s point of view. This book uses the everyday language of a teenager and maintains consistency. It doesn’t flicker between teenage slang and more elaborate dialogues, which is a mistake Green has made previously. The narration also has elements of humor and is fresh.
A point of complaint would be that Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Speigelman share similar dynamics as Miles “Pudge” Halter and Alaska Young, both characters from ‘Looking for Alaska’. So if you have read ‘Looking for Alaska’, there is a good chance Paper Towns won’t feel as unique.
Paper Towns is not just about Margo and Quentin’s story; it is also about everything behind the scenes. It is funny, complex and an enticing story for today’s youth. But if you are lucky and able to read between the lines, it is also a brilliant read for people of all ages. And if you are extremely fortunate, you won’t just lose yourself in the thoughts of John Green, but even find a little bit more about yourself.
**Paper Towns movie releases worldwide July - August 2015**