Looking through one of the must-read lists of 2015, I came across “Paper Towns” by John Green, a Printzawarded author. Being one of the people who did not go and see the movie made about the novel, I decided to buy the book and to see what I was missing out on. As I saw a New York Times bestseller and a quote of “Profoundly Moving” on the cover, I began reading Paper Towns with high expectations.
The plot involves childhood friends, Margo and Quentin, who drifted apart and are now teenagers. Out of the blue, Margo jumps through Quentin’s bedroom window to drag him along on a night filled with revenge pranks and illegal mischief. After their night of chaos, Quentin’s mind rushes with thoughts of Margo and their now-potential future. The only problem is that after their adventurous night, Margo disappears. Margo’s running away is not an uncommon occurrence, but when Quentin begins finding clues, he becomes determined that Margo left with the intention of him finding her to prove his worthiness.
“Paper Towns” starts off by telling how Quentin and Margo found the body of a man who had committed suicide. They found the body in the park when they were nine. With this kind of opening, I assumed this novel was going to be gripping. It is followed by the complicated execution of Margo’s revenge on her cheating boyfriend in the middle of the night with Quentin. The exciting roller coaster begins slowing down after Margo disappears. The majority of the novel is then dedicated to Quentin’s nearobsessive search for Margo and his following the clues he believes Margo left as a bread crumb trail.
Along with the search for Margo, Green incorporates some life lessons that Quentin learns on his way to becoming an adult. One of the big themes was that your friends are who they are, not who you want them to be. Quentin and Ben, one of Quentin’s best friends, do not exactly see eye-to-eye on the Margo situation. The search for Margo becomes the only thing that Quentin thinks about, and he is disappointed that Ben does not consider Margo his number one priority.
Quentin also learns that you have to live a little. Living by-the-book all the time does not make memories. He learns that you have to take risks and live on the edge sometimes to make life fun and interesting.
While all this learning is happening, the build-up of finding Margo is like slowly trekking up to the tip top of a large rollercoaster. I finished the book in a day because I kept turning the page to find out what happened to Margo. The suspense was great. It was enjoyable to read about them finding the clues and piecing them together until finally they knew where she, or her body, was. Quentin, while piecing together the clues, becomes convinced that Margo may have committed suicide. Quentin wanted to be the one to find Margo, as they found the dead man in the park when they were children. All the unanswered questions kept me going, but once I reached the peak, there was not an exhilarating drop from the peak. It was more like the rollercoaster just leveled off at the peak, and then it slowly crept to the exit.
There is no big “ahha” moment. There is no insightful explanation for the disappearance of Margo. I was very disappointed with the ending of the novel. I felt like Green could have ended the novel in a way that was much more fitting to the story. One that would have given some reasonable explanation or at least a happy ending, both which were absent.
I think that the ending took some away from the novel, but I still would suggest others to try it for themselves. After reading the novel, I am interested in seeing the movie and seeing what they decided to do differently.