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