Since I will eventually read and post about John Green's most recent novel, The Fault In Our Stars, released on January 12th, I thought I would first start off with one of his earlier works and the first one of his books that I read. I enjoyed Paper Towns a great deal, more than I expected to, and I thing there are plenty of adults who would enjoy it as well.
The Situation: Quentin (a.k.a. Q) is a fairly normal and well-adjusted senior in high school who lives next-door to his life-time crush and childhood best friend Margo. In high school, Margo went the route of the popular kids while Q was...well...much less popular. Then one night Margo gets Q to tag along with her on an all-nighter of revenge pranks against other popular kids that are supposed to be her friends, including her quarterback boyfriend. Q manages to survive the night and is hoping this is the beginning of them maybe having a friendship again.
The Problem: Turns out the all-night prank fest was not the beginning of a rekindling of the friendship...because Margo then runs away, leaving only a series of clues as to where she is. Q of course takes it upon himself to solve the mystery of Margo's whereabouts while also trying to navigate his last few days of high school and graduate. In my opinion, the clues are incredibly impressive since they are coming from a teenage girl. What annoys me though is her heavy use of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (all you Simpsons fanatics out there will remember what Homer said about Leaves of Grass after stumbling upon Whitman's headstone and grave in the "Mother Simpson" episode...pretty much how I feel about it). Still, the clues and revelations that result from it all are pretty fascinating.
Genre, Theme, History: This is a young adult novel with a good amount of mystery. Also, it explores an issue which I have always found interesting when it comes to teenagers and high school, and that is the issue of the popular kid who feels trapped in always acting like someone he/she is not. It is something that comes up a good amount in popular culture, and I have found it to have a very real basis in real life.
The novel also talks about the phenomena of the "paper town," which can be an unbuilt subdivision or a copyright trap used by mapping companies where they will include the name of a town somewhere on their map, but that town does not actually exists. Of course, what will then sometimes happen is that people will start using the name of that town for other purposes, realizing that it doesn't really exists but it can be found on certain maps.
My Verdict: I gave the novel four out of five stars on Goodreads. My only real criticism (aside from the use of Whitman, but that is really my personal issue) is that the character of Margo really does not appeal to me at all. I realize she is the popular and pretty girl, and the girl that Q has been longing for all this time, and I am fine with that, but what I am not okay with is how self-obsessed she is and how people like Q do not see that...or do not care. This may also have to do with my impatience for teenagers who think that whatever issue they are currently going through is the biggest thing to happen to anyone ever in the history of the world, and I feel like Margo has a little bit of that. Of course, she is a teenager, and I was totally guilty of this too when I was 17.
Favorite Moment: Pretty much any instance that involved Q deciphering the clues that Margo left behind interested me greatly.
Favorite Character: I have to go with one of Q's best friends, Marcus (a.k.a. Radar). Marcus is African-American and his parents currently own the world's largest selection of black Santas (Ha!). He is also really into, like really into, editing a website called Omnictionary - a collaborative online encyclopedia (yeah, guess which site that was modeled after). In fact, there is actually now a real life Omnictionary website that includes more detailed information about the Paper Towns characters and the life of Green.
Recommended Reading: I recently finished Green's An Abundance of Katherines. If you enjoyed Paper Towns you may also like this book.