Thursday, July 23, 2015

Double Review: Paper Towns - John Green

Paper Towns
John Green
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Even though I read Paper Towns a few weeks ago, it seemed appropriate to finally post my review on the day the movie will be premiering. Amrutha, Noor, and I will be attending the Night on the Towns special early showing with a live simulcast after the movie tonight, and we'll be posting about the event in a few days. Anyway, onto the review!

For some reason I always put off reading John Green books until the movies are coming out soon. The Fault in Our Stars was a book so many people told me to read, but I refused to do so until a few months before the movie came out. The same is true with Paper Towns. While Paper Towns was vastly different than The Fault in Our Stars, I really liked the story told.

Paper Towns follows Quentin, a sort-of awkward, sort-of nerdy boy who is mildly obsessed with his neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. While the two were friends when they were younger, they've since grown apart and Q has taken to admiring her from afar, sort of making up a perfect version of her in his head. One night, Margo implores him to help her with a revenge plot. After that night together, Margo mysteriously disappears and it appears that she left clues for Q to find her.

Even though I generally don't read mystery novels, there's something so captivating about stories with a mystery subplot. I found myself constantly excited and invested in the whereabouts and wellbeing of Margo, even though she wasn't even in most of the book.

Although the mystery is a large part of the premise, the book is mostly a coming of age story. Throughout his adventure trying to find Margo, Quentin becomes even closer with his friends Radar and Ben, discovering things about them that he hadn't previously realized and learning what it truly means to be a friend. A lot of Paper Towns is about the way we perceive people, making them out in our minds to be something different than what they are at face value. Q struggles with this sort of ideology, mostly with Margo but also with Ben and other characters. I really enjoyed how John Green explored this aspect of knowing people in the story - it's definitely something I've thought about and had trouble with in the past, expecting someone live up to my idea of them when it's just not who they are.

The main thing that makes this book so fun is the characters. The characters of Paper Towns fall along a wide spectrum of personalities, from more serious to completely goofy - John Green did a great job balancing the humor with the seriousness in this book. I loved seeing the way these characters interacted and how their different personalities shaped the story.

Even though Paper Towns wasn't the tear-jerker that The Fault in Our Stars was, Paper Towns was still a deeply emotional coming of age story. I thoroughly enjoyed Paper Towns, possibly more than TFIOS because I think it's just more my type of story, and I highly recommend it to people looking for a coming of age story with a mix of humor and heart, especially if you also like a little mystery.

- Kiersten

Noor's Review of Paper Towns
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Paper Towns wasn't the first John Green book I read, and I don't think it's compositionally as great as the works that come after it (which makes sense, authors improve with every book they write), but it is by far my favorite. For me, this book is one of Those Books. The books that stay with you and are so near and dear to your heart that just telling someone you love the book doesn't seem right. The books where you might resonate with a character you're not supposed to and you might feel like you've been punched in the gut with a line or two or twenty. The ones that affect you a lot and leave you with a lasting impression and feeling the need to capitalize the phrase "Those Books" when talking about the type of book it is. I know that's not the way Paper Towns is or will be for everyone, I just wanted to mention how important this book is to me before I talked about the book itself.

Kiersten did an excellent job explaining the premise so I won't go into that again, and I want to touch on something she said about Paper Towns being about how we perceive people. One of the more popular quotes from the book is "What a treacherous thing to believe a person is more than a person"  and we see this exemplified with not only Q's image of Margo Roth Spiegelman, but the other characters' as well. Much of the book focuses on the journey to find her, so she's a point of discussion quite frequently, and this is how we learn more and more about Margo Roth Spiegelman. Q certainly believes she is more than a person and that's dangerous because he's looking for her to be a perfection solution to all things when its clear that she has problems to work out herself.

In another portion of the book, his parents describe people as either windows or mirrors. Margo Roth Spiegelman seems to heavily portray a mirror-person, and it seems the everyone on the journey (and some people who weren't, such as her parents), got a little sliver of it, got themselves and their backgrounds reflected back at them, and took away a different interpretation of who Margo was. There was definitely a failure to look past that and see who she was behind the mirror which added to her complexity as a character. She isn't a character to idolize and imitate, she's one to understand.

I realize I haven't touched on the other characters really, but I thought they were spot on. Ben, Radar, Lacey, they all brought their own set of hilarity, skills, and sometimes reality checks to the book. It was entertaining and enjoyable to read them and watch the progression of everyone's relationships. Like Kiersten said, it definitely is a coming-of-age, story, and a large part of that focuses on your friendships and I like the way Paper Towns dealt with that.

I also really loved the mystery aspect, which I don't like using that word to describe, because it makes me think of mystery novels that moms read when they drop the kids off at school and make themselves a cup of coffee that they try not to spill on their white couches. It wasn't like that. It was just the right amount of finding clues that would (or wouldn't?????) lead them to Margo and the right amount of suspense and just wonderful storytelling, really.

Ultimately, I loved the story and the dynamic characters, and I especially loved the writing. There were quotes that chilled me to the bone, and I think my favorite one in the entire book is "Maybe all the strings inside him broke" which I realize might not sound all that great without context but I promise this book is filled with beautiful prose and you will not regret reading it.

- Noor

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  1. I read PAPER TOWNS a while back (maybe 5 years ago) and it was the first John Green book I read. I don’t think I read another one until THE FAULT IN OUR STARS came out (and everyone buzzed about it) but I’m glad this one was my first one–I love the story and I can’t wait to see the film. Great reviews! :D

  2. I read this book a few years ago and remember thinking it was okay, though I picked it up just after Looking For Alaska, which absolutely blew me away. For some reason, I didn't enjoy Paper Towns all that much. :/ I'll probably still see the movie though. Awesome reviews, guys. :)
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian