Book Review: Paper Towns

I’m sad to say I haven’t done much reading this summer. I know, my English teachers would be disappointed in me. I’ve started three different books, and I’ve only managed to finish one. (Not that the other ones were bad, they were just overdue at the library.) So this is why my first book review is coming towards the end of July.

Paper Towns was recommended to me by my friend Katie. She’s a big fan of author John Green, and she thought I would enjoy this novel in particular because it’s set in Florida. The main character is narrator Quentin Jacobsen, who goes by Q, who lives in a suburb of Orlando. His neighbor growing up was Margo Roth Spiegelman, the quintessential girl-next-door: beautiful, mysterious, and unattainable. Q is, of course, in love with Margo, and has been since they were childhood friends. They drifted apart though after a grim incident when they were in elementary school and haven’t been close since.

Orlando Map

That is until one school night weeks before graduation, when Margo appears outside of Q’s bedroom window. She’s on a mission and Q agrees to be her accomplice after little hesitation. And so the two set off on an adventure across Central Florida, enacting revenge on high school classmates and breaking into Sea World. It’s a night Q won’t soon forget, and he sincerely hopes that will bring him and Margo closer.

The next day Margo doesn’t show up at school. People aren’t worried at first- Margo, with her effortlessly cool and adventurous persona, has disappeared before. This time feels different for Q, and it’s not long before he starts finding clues Margo left for him. Soon Q decides that it’s up to him to find Margo, wherever she is. He gets help from his appropriately quirky and nerdy buddies, Ben and Radar, plus Margo’s best friend, Lacey.

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I didn’t have any expectations when I picked up Paper Towns. John Green is actually a pretty big name in the Young Adult publishing world, but I had never heard of him. Regardless, I absolutely devoured this book. I read it over two days, and it was hard for me to put it down. We’ve met the characters of Q and Margo before. He’s the quiet, smart kid- certainly no loner, but definitely not a “cool kid”. She’s the popular girl with a heart. Still, we get to know both of them intimately so they don’t feel like ordinary stock characters. The rest of the friends are the kind of people I would like to hang out with in real life- how often do you get to say that?

Another reason I loved Paper Towns is that it was about Florida, my Florida. For those of you who aren’t Florida (or even U.S.) natives, Florida is a state that is often misrepresented. It’s usually summed up by two things: Disney World and retirees. Instead, I know it is a flat, sprawling suburbia, with perfectly manicured lawns, streets lined with palm trees, and mega-high schools. This is the Florida that Green captures in Paper Towns, and he does it really well because he grew up here too.

Depending on your literature tastes, some of you may feel wary of picking up Paper Towns. I’ll admit I felt “meh” about it when I saw it was a young adult novel. However, just because this book is about teenagers doing teenager-y things, it doesn’t mean it reads like one. Green’s writing is very layered, so there’s psychological and literary perspectives on the characters and the plot. Still, it’s an easy read, and I’d recommend it for a day in, or even a trip to the pool or beach. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual “chick lit” targeted for girls my age.

What do you think? Have you read Paper Towns or any other books by John Green? What have you been reading this summer?

~ Sarah

The Day After

He looks snarky, doesn't he?

If you had told me a week ago that LeBron James would’ve abandoned the city of Cleveland for South Beach, I probably wouldn’t have taken you seriously. Yeah, I didn’t think LeBron would stay with the Cavaliers. And sure, I knew that the Heat were courting the King, but I was too distracted by D-Wade’s free agency. And even when Wade did announce his intent to stay in Miami, and buzz around LeBron built up, I wrote that I didn’t think he would end up in Miami.

Turns out, I was wrong.

I kind of figured that out yesterday when ESPN’s sources began reporting that LeBron was heading to the Heat. James’ choice went from the best-kept secret in sports to the worst-kept one overnight. I was far from pleased with this development, though. I’ve never been a fan of LeBron: he always seemed selfish, egotistical, and unsportsmanlike. Maybe it was already his personality or the media hype influenced him, but LeBron carries himself with a “holier-than-thou” attitude. After all, he’s the “Chosen One”.

With Bosh and Wade, I didn’t see Pat Riley and the Heat needing another top player. Besides, I didn’t think Miami would be appealing to LeBron. Sure, he could play ball with a couple of Olympic buddies. But why wouldn’t he want to build a team in Cleveland (or another city) around himself, instead of fitting into Miami’s puzzle? And what does that say about his competitive edge? Plus, he’d be second-fiddle to Wade. I know LeBron is the back-to-back league MVP, but go ahead and ask A-Rod who’s the fan favorite in the Bronx. Wade essentially owns Miami, and that’s why he was the Heat’s first priority, not LeBron, thank you very much. (Unless you buy into those rumors of collusion, in which case Wade is at least equally as important as James.)

All this brings us to Thursday night. Being the King and all, James couldn’t sit down for a regular interview or- God forbid- have a press release. No, he had to have a one-hour ESPN special trainwreck, “The Decision”, to publicly break the hearts of all but one team. If free agency wasn’t already a media spectacle, this special sealed the deal. In the words of the ridiculously (and perhaps justifiably) bitter Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, it was a “several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up”. (The fact that the proceeds from the commercial spots went to the Boys & Girls Club is extraneous to me. He could’ve helped out the foundation without turning everything into a three-ring circus.)

After leading us on for a good twenty, thirty minutes, LeBron James finally announced “The Decision”- South Beach. Of course, South Florida erupted as if we just won the NBA Championship. (Not even close to a done deal, by the way.) I can’t say the rest of the country feels the same jubilation, or even the rest of Florida. (I can’t wait for a renewed intensity in the Magic-Heat rivalry, by the way.) While I never wanted to be a “witness”, I now have put aside my dislike for LeBron and root for my hometown team. And trust me, it’s hard not to get caught up in all this excitement about the Heat- there’s no escape from this party.

I’m very cautiously optimistic about this team, solely because I’m not sure LeBron will be able to put aside his ego and accept not being number one. Of course, I hope I’m proven wrong. There’s no feeling in the world like watching your team bring home a championship.

No matter what happens with Wade & Co., the free agency frenzy and “The Decision” will be remembered as turning points in NBA, sports, and media history. We’ve never seen anything like this before, and we’ve only just started seeing the repercussions. Plenty of things will be written in the coming days, weeks, maybe even years about how this shaped the league, LeBron’s legacy, Riley’s legacy, the city of Cleveland, basketball in New York, and so on. Let’s just hope this turns out to be something positive not only for Miami, but for the NBA and the rest of sports.

~ Sarah

Mission: Accomplished

Chris Bosh (left) will be joining Dwyane Wade in Miami

I was seriously getting worried.

With all the ridiculously hyped media scrutiny surrounding the NBA free agents, I was starting to fear the worse, that Wade would abandon South Florida in favor of his hometown, Chicago. I was already planning my post ranting about heros and abandonment issues. Luckily for you guys, I didn’t have to go there.

This morning, I was enjoying a Krispy Kreme donut when I turned on Sportscenter. The bottomline was flashing “breaking news” and Josh Elliot made a wonderful announcement: sources were reporting that Dwyane Wade was staying with the Miami Heat- and Chris Bosh, formerly of the Toronto Raptors, was joining him. Like any other lame sports fan, I reacted by a) gasping b) cheering to myself and c) texting my best friend.

After the initial excitement wore off, panic set in. What is these unnamed “sources” are wrong?!? It certainly wouldn’t be the first one. And then Chris Bosh practically gave me a heart attack on Twitter but refusing to acknowledge the reports. When I got to work, I was so anxious to hear an official announcement from the organization or the players that I kept refreshing ESPN.com. Too much to handle.

A bit after noon, ESPN’s website live streamed an interview with Wade and Bosh, confirming their plans to sign with the Heat. Nearly my whole department was listening in, and I know relief finally set in. This whole free agency ordeal was akin to torture sometimes. Please, NBA, never again.

And now, it’s all about excitement and anticipation. Plus, now speculation is rampant about whether the King himself, LeBron James, will join his two buddies in South Beach. Could you imagine? Boston’s Big Three would have nothing on (insert lame nickname for Bosh/Wade/LeBron here).

So what do you guys think of free agency so far? Where do you think LeBron will sign? Personally, I’ll be surprised if he stays in Cleveland but I don’t think he’ll end up in Miami either.

Oh, and by the way Wade and Bosh: no pressure to win a championship. No pressure at all.

~ Sarah