My first John Green novel was Looking for Alaska, and I loved it. I follow him on Facebook (he’s delightfully goofy), and with all the buzz surrounding Paper Towns being made in to a movie, I figured I should give it a read. Plus, I was reading Father and Son, which is fantastic but very, very dark, and I needed a little bit of light for a couple of days, and I knew I could count on Green to give it to me.
Quentin (Q) and Margo Roth Spiegelman have been friends since she moved in next door as a young girl, their friendship forever cemented when they discovered a dead man in the park together. But as often happens between boys and girls, they drifted apart as they entered high school, with Q loving Margo from afar and Margo sliding in to the in crowd, leaving Q behind. Until one night, Margo appears at Q’s window, determined to take him on an adventure that includes stealing her philandering boyfriend’s pants and breaking in to Sea World. After such a night, Q is sure that she’s come back to him, but he gets to school only to find that she’s gone missing.
What follows is Q’s journey to find Margo, discovering clues that he’s convinced she’s left for him, pleading with his friends to help him. Finally, with just minutes to go before their graduation ceremony, he realizes that she’s in a paper town (a fictional town mapmakers use to prevent plagairism) in New York, and he grabs a handful of friends, ditches the cap and gown, and takes his mom’s mini-van from Florida to the upper reaches of New York, praying all the way that he finds Margo before it’s too late.
I have to say that I really didn’t like Margo. Perhaps that was Green’s goal, but I wanted to cheerfully strangle her more than once. I found her to be extremely frustrating, the epitome of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl with more than a dash of selfishness. Q’s friends, though, were delightful, nerdy and funny and serious and exactly the kind of support system one should have. And I grew more and more frustrated with Q, because Margo just didn’t deserve Q’s devotion. At least with Alaska, I could understand some of her behavior, but Margo was just a selfish, spoiled, narcissistic little brat, completely undeserving of Q’s attention or affection.
I’ve read elsewhere that Paper Towns isn’t Green’s strongest effort. The more I sat on this review, the more indecisive I became about my feelings about it. Sometimes I think I loved it, and other times I think it isn’t his best work. But Green himself is so likable that I’ll read anything he writes, even if it’s a description on the back of the cereal box.