I discovered John Green through his Vlog Brothers’ videos on You Tube. His video on The Great Gatsby led me to Bookfighters’ YouTube channel where Green’s Paper Towns was mentioned. The video convinced me to add Paper Towns to my reading list and I’m glad I did.
I did like Paper Towns, especially the last chapter, but it wasn’t as good as I expected. I think Green’s assessment of Gatsby was so trenchant that I expected Fitzgerald level writing. His writing is good and very much like his patter on Vlog Brothers. The patter that wows in a YouTube video can tire in a novel.
Paper Towns centers around Quentin, a.k.a. Q, a smart, geeky teen who’s smitten with Margo Roth Spielgelman, the dream girl next door. As kids, Q and Margo lived in each others pockets. Now in high school Margo, who sees the superficiality and fakery of life in Orlando, inhabits the social stratosphere, while Q lives on the margins with his geeky friends, Radar and Ben.
The first part of the book follows Quentin and Margo on a late night series of vengeful adventures and pranks. Margo’s pure energy and sarcasm. He’s tailing along as she exacts creative revenge from her cheating boyfriend and frenemies.
The next day, Quentin hopes he and Margo can now be friends or more than friends. At least she should acknowledge him at school. Yet part two takes readers in a different direction. Margo disappears. Since she’s over 18, the police can’t launch a search. She’s run off before and her callus parents don’t take any action, in fact they change their locks. So Quentin hunts for her picking up the esoteric, poetic clues she’s left like bread crumbs. The big question is whether she’s still alive.
It’s not Catcher in the Rye or an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, but it kept my interest.
If I were in a book club, my first questions to discuss would be: Do you think Margo is a narcissist? Was she worth saving? Is she a 21st century, middle class Daisy Buchanan?