Book Review: John Green’s “Paper Towns”

By McKenzie Fetters

“Paper Towns” is a fictional bildungsroman novel of the young adult genre. At first glance, it seems to follow the typical formulaic plotline of many a teen romance novel out there today — the synopsis on the back cover details the story of a boy named Quentin, who is in love with a girl named Margo, but is too shy to make anything of his affections — a story we have all read time and time again, with little variations here and there. However, the book proves to be so much more than the typical love story that appears on its surface.

John Green’s quirky prose and witty dialogue compose a story that begs to be read aloud — one that is genuinely funny, heartbreakingly sad and filled with precious nuggets of wisdom and truth. It is a story that contains mystery, romance and much more.

Quentin, the protagonist, who narrates the entire novel in first person, provides a refreshing view on life as he knows it — reporting events as they happen with utmost veracity, giving the text a verve that propels the reader from one page to the next. His character is well rounded, solid, achingly human and completely relatable. His love interest, Margo, is also achingly human — enigmatic and unpredictable, high spirited and unique, perpetually lost and out of place.

After showing up unexpected at Quentin’s window one night, the incredible and lovely Margo promptly takes Quentin out of his comfort zone on a marvelous adventure filled with pranks, trespassing and a good portion of fun. The following day Margo goes missing and Quentin takes it upon himself to read the signs that she left behind in order to find her again.

His journey, filled with a cast of characters who are each as eccentric and lovable as the last, chronicles his final weeks of high school, senior prom and graduation, and delves into such topics as leaving, goodbyes, friendship, the faults of human perception, the dangers of expectation and imagination, the discrepancy of appearances and reality, the futility of human existence and the maturation of one’s soul.

“Paper Towns” was a great transitional book for me as I finished high school and proceeded into the collegiate phase of my life, as I happened to be reading the parts of the book involving senior prom, graduation and saying goodbye to people for college as I was experiencing those things myself. Perhaps my perception of the book’s greatness is unduly heightened by that synchronization. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend “Paper Towns” to any teen looking for a good read and/or an excellent commentary upon some important life concepts. John Green will take you on a ride with some unexpected twists and turns, but with plenty of heartwarming companions at your side. Consistently humorous, intelligent and savory to very last line, “Paper Towns,” despite being made out of paper, contains the depth and dimension of life itself.