Review: Paper Towns by John Green | A Humorous Contemporary Mystery with Some Nuance

My first John Green book! I had been hearing about Green from countless platforms and friends as well, them proclaiming that he was one of the kings of YA and that The Fault in Our Stars was epic.

Extremely pumped up about Green, I snatched the first book I saw in the library.

PAPER TOWNS by John Green

Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction | Age Group: Young Adult
Series: No

Published: 16 February 2008 | Read: 11 September 2020
No. of Pages: 305 (Paperback)

Click here to view Trigger Warnings Depression

Who is the real Margo?

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…

Goodreads | Amazon

The thing that definitely intrigued me the most was the concept of paper towns. I had never ever heard of them before and was amused when finding out what they actually meant.

John Green masterfully weaves this theme of paper towns into his book, both literally and as a metaphor. Paper towns were used to mislead the characters, give them a destination and finally used to voice out that gap the characters feel in them. That feeling of being controlled by societal expectations, suppressed by peer pressure, where everyone is vastly different behind closed doors? A paper town.

This analogy, I feel, indeed helped me to be able to connect with the characters more. Speaking of which, I did enjoy the character dynamics immensely.

Paper Towns revolves around Quentin Jacobsen, an ordinary, not popular student, studious, doesn’t care much about prom and girls. That is, until his neighbour, the popular, adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman broke those many years of silence between them, to invite him to join in on her 11-step revenge rampage.

Yes, I understand it’s the typical concept of the “geek” and the gorgeous but I find it was done up pretty well! We see contrast in the 2 characters: Margo feeling the whole town is messed up and only liking Quentin but still prioritising her own life and Quentin loving it, loving order and routine, yet sacrificing everything for Margo.

This made the relationship so tense and tangly. It was kind of forbidden love yet… However, these feelings for each other, though it kind of drove the story tremendously, I wished it was explored more in-depth, especially for Margo. We knew a lot of Quentin’s thoughts but I feel Margo still maintained her mysterious demeanour even at the end.

Was it intentional? Maybe, but I would have loved to understand Margo more which would have made their relationship more engaging.

To talk about romance without mentioning one of the most desperate people for it in the book would be insane. Ben! Quentin’s best friend who is also a nerd, being bullied before and obsessed with getting a girl, or a “honeybunny”. I found him so amusing and great comic relief in the book, a stark contrast against Quentin’s serious and focused attitude.

They were such a cheerful (well, not always) and humorous trio that I couldn’t help but constantly root for them, not only with their extremely relatable ways but because of that sweet 11 year friendship between them.

Apart from the characters, I enjoyed the sort of absurd and somewhat bewildering plot. Maybe it’s because I don’t read much mystery books but either way, I was super-glued to the books and at times, felt some goosebumps! Furthermore, Paper Towns was written so realistically, with much humour infused making it extremely entertaining and enjoyable!

One thing though that I felt could have brought the book from great to epic would also be with regards to the plot. Paper Towns was neatly divided into three segments, which made it easily comprehended, but seem like three separate sections at the same, causing me to compartmentalise it into different parts of my mind.

And the mystery solving part, I know we were all gaping at the clues but more connections between the parts and especially during the “mystery solving” parts, old memories would have been great!

Furthermore, apart from Quentin, the rest of the characters seemed rather two dimensional, in which each of them kind of represents a quality or “type of person you see in high school that is either a nerd or the popular person”. With such diverse characters, I feel that though Quentin is the protagonist, they could have been explored in more detail (some backstory or individual ties with Margo would be cool?).

Overall I thought that Paper Towns was a highly hilarious and addictive read, despite quite a bit of things I was unsatisfied with like the characterisation of the minor characters.

rating // ★★★

Have you read Paper Towns? Or any other John Green book?

5 thoughts on “Review: Paper Towns by John Green | A Humorous Contemporary Mystery with Some Nuance

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