Friday, May 8, 2015

Paper Towns by John Green

Publication Date:  September 22, 2009
Publisher:  Speak
Series:  Stand Alone
Pages:  305
Genre:  Contemporary 
Synopsis:  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... 

Review:  Last year when The Fault in Our Stars came out as a movie, I finally deigned to read the book, despite being wary of all the hype surrounding it.  I liked it, it made me feel, as all good books should.  Then I read Looking for Alaska, which I prefer because a) it is darker and b) is less melodramatic.  Now, a year since I picked up my first book by John Green, I finally read Paper Towns, for the same reason I read TFIOS--I want to see the movie.  I'm not sure what exactly it is I expected from this book, but I do know that I expected more.

John Green has a very metaphorical style of writing.  He leans toward the grandiose.  I like this, I like his quotes.  But his plots? Not so much.  Or, rather, I liked it the first time.  Not so much the second time around.  Because, seriously, Paper Towns is Looking for Alaska with different character names and a different setting.  It is different because it isn't as solemn and, yeah, the whole searching for missing Margo thing.  But, in the grand scheme of it all, they are essentially the same.

It is the same quirky, thoughtful, and unpopular boy that is infatuated with some manic pixie dream girl he can never have. Something insane and dramatic occurs.  Life lessons ensue.  It's the same formula, just with a change in the details.

I admit, the beginning hooked me.  Paper Towns starts off with a flash back and then we are pulled along on this whirlwind of an adventure.  And then...nothing.  Margo disappeared with all the fun.  The next third of the book is quite monotonous and slow.  It took me absolutely forever to get through this section because I kept getting distracted by something more eventful, like watching the grass grow, or even homework (okay, perhaps not that far). Sure, the last third is a quest in search of Margo, full of laughter and road trips.  But that middle section?  No.     

Quentin, or Q, is cool.  He is, like many John Green protagonists, likable if not totally realistic.  But, let's be honest here.  The story isn't really about Q, it's about Margo.  

Margo is larger than life, eccentric and absurd in every way.  She never seems real.  Chapter after chapter she is held up on this pedestal of being some ideal girl, and we are told why most of the time, not shown.  It's hard to show how crazy and wild a character is when she isn't even present for most of the book.  

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Q was obsessed with this idea of a girl who studiously ignored him for a solid decade, save for one night.  It took Q a long time to realize this:  "Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made — and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make — was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl."  People are just people, nothing more and nothing less.  Margo is loud and she is charming, but she is nothing more than just another person.  She is not perfect and I did not enjoy her being presented as so, page after page.

I find most of the events that take place in John Green's books to be implausible.  In what world would half of these things actually occur?  It is called "realistic fiction" but I think the realistic side of things gets a little lost.  

I read a review where someone had said that they had read somewhere that John green is in love with his own mind.  A truer statement has never before been expressed.  It's the diction and the connotation of his words that he writes that is almost pretentious. Sometimes, the words succeed to make an impact, and, other times, they fail epically.  Paper Towns failed to make me care.  I didn't much care for the characters in Looking for Alaska, either, but I felt for the situation at hand.  I had hoped Paper Towns would be the same, if not better.

So many people love this book.  I may be a bit critical of John Green in general, I know, but I still wanted more than what I got from this novel.  It is entertaining and the writing is commendable, but that is all it is.

2.5 Keys


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