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Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green (3/5)

29 Dec

So this is my third John Green book and with each one, I’m giving a lower rating. 5 for TFiOS, 4 for ‘Alaska,’ and now 3 for this title. This is nothing against Green as a writer. I think he develops very rich characters and I think they capture the essence of being a teenager. But I disagree with his message on this one. I don’t think it sent a positive message to kids and I felt like the heroine didn’t deserve to be worshiped. She really bugged me.

Cover image via

Cover image via

Paper Towns by John Green

Summary from Goodreads:

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew…

I never liked Margo, throughout this whole book and I think that ruined it for me. She frustrated me and seemed very self-centered and I didn’t want Q to like her. She wasn’t worth his time in my view. So I was frustrated during the whole book while these awesome characters spent their time and effort looking for a not-very-awesome character.

John Green writes an amazing teenage character. In all his books, it’s the characters that always stand out to me, much more than the story. His adult characters still hold merit, which is good in a YA novel, but don’t hold a candle to his teenagers. I wish I knew the secret to holding on to youth enough to write a teenager this well!

Ben in particular was a stand-out character. I’m not sure he had the most favorable growth or went about it in the most healthy way, but he was able to maintain his identity and personality while becoming a person he wanted to be. I didn’t like how he started (heavily) drinking to fit in with Lacey’s friends but I liked that he remained tight with Q and Radar and was still himself after it all. He could have easily ditched Q and the Quest for Margo to be with his new friends, but he stuck with them the whole time. A great character all around.

I related to Ben, Radar, and Q’s struggle to be happy and fit in during high school. I was perfectly happy with my friends, but it sometimes bothered me that we weren’t the popular kids. What was wrong with us that not everyone liked us? We were pretty awesome, if I don’t say so myself. But we didn’t want to change who we were to fit in with the ‘popular’ kids. It’s a weird middle to be stuck in and it was cool to see Q and the guys in the same place.

The banter between the characters was my favorite part of the book. John Green does teenage dialogue better than anyone else, hands down. Hearing Ben and Radar rag on Q or vice verse was great and it helped take me back to when I was 17. Bravo, Mr. Green.

Image via mental_floss

Image via mental_floss

I hated the ending. I thought it was a terrible message of ‘You can run away from your problems if you want to’ and I think that’s a terrible thing to say, especially to teenagers. I think Margo was idolized and ended up being incredibly self-centered, making me really hate her. I wish Q had been more upset with her in the end because I felt as if she betrayed him. He deserved better.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Dan John Miller. I think he did a wonderful job. His inflections helped me understand who was speaking in a conversation and his inflection when the characters spoke was spot on with a teenager speaker. I liked how he did the IM conversations by using the screen names of the characters as it was in the book. it reminded me of high school.

Wow, a theme for this book? The things you’re looking for are not always worth being found? Sometimes it’s best to leave someone alone? I’m not really sure where to go with this one but I didn’t like the themes. Margo was (legally) an adult. She was allowed to mess up and ruin things for herself and no one let her go along with that. It’s her call if she wants to leave everyone and go away and I wish Q was able to go along with his life without having to know where she was. I felt bad for him.

Writer’s Takeaway: It can’t be said enough: dialogue and teen characters are superb in this novel. No one can do it better than John Green. I think this is a great study of how complex a character can be and how much back story you can put into them without bogging down a story. Because if I say ‘World’s Largest Collection of Black Santas’ and  you’ve read this novel, I’m going to bet you smile. But if not, you’ll be lost because it has nothing to do with the plot. It’s all back story and  you love the characters more because of it without feeling dragged down with their minutiae.

Not that great of a plot, but well written. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills ‘Florida’ for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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