Paper Towns by John Green
(Dutton Books, Hardcover)
Quentin Jacobsen hasn't always watched Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. They used to be best friends in elementary school until they found a dead guy in the park. After that momentous day, Margo Roth Spiegelman drifted away, became popular, and, in fact, almost legendary. Hardly anyone calls her plain "Margo." Her crazy adventures are whispered about in the hall between classes and Quentin's only knowledge of her is based on these wild stories. That all changes one night when Margo crawls into Quentin's bedroom window and asks for one small favor: "I need a car. Also, I need you to drive it, because I have to do eleven things tonight, and at least five of them involve a getaway man." When Margo disappears the next day, Quentin must figure out just who Margo Roth Spiegelman is.
This is the second book that I've read by John Green, the first being Looking for Alaska. The two have a lot of similarities (besides the fact that I love both of them). The main character is a somewhat-shy, quiet guy and the girl is wild, unpredictable, and unreachable. There are several differences though. The most notable being that in Looking for Alaska the book works towards a major event that happens in the middle of the novel and then the second half of the novel shows how the characters react to and cope with that event. In Paper Towns, the plot just keeps building until the end. Margo brings excitement into Quentin's life the night that she shows up in his room. She takes him away on a whirlwind of deception, revenge, laughs, and nostalgia for a lost friendship. Quentin becomes obsessed with finding her when she disappears; in fact, he is positive that Margo wants him to find her and has left him clues to follow. Paper Towns is ultimately about how well you can ever know another person, about how our images of other people is often far from the truth. This is artfully illustrated by the poem Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman that Margo leaves behind. At first, Quentin reads only parts of the poem and tries to understand Margo in that framework. Only when he reads the poem in its entirety does he begin to really understand Margo. This book was an absolute page-turner, with quirky friends, weird parents, laugh-out-loud moments, and a serious undertone that elevates the book to literary status. John Green knows how to write about teenagers and each character (no matter how minor) comes to life.