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Customer Review

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good characters, messy plotting, 18 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: Paper Towns (Paperback)
Paper Towns is a pithy, clever read about a teenage boy, Quentin/Q, who should be preparing for prom and graduation, but is instead sucked into investigating the disappearance of his neighbour and longtime crush, Margo.

With funny dialogue and likeable characters, Paper is at its quirky best when it's just about friends hanging out, having fun. Ironically, I found the `mystery' to be the weakest part of the novel. It starts with a zing, but a seriously saggy middle finds the protagonist seemingly endlessly reading Walt Whitman and wandering around an abandoned minimall, in search of clues. And, because there has been no murder in this mystery, the denouement is inevitably set up to be an underwhelming disappointment.

(In the Acknowledgements, Green notes that he used Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild as inspiration for this novel. Now THAT is a creepy, sad, exhilarating mystery-without-the-murder.)

To pretentiously paraphrase AnaÔs Nin, the novel ultimately becomes about the fact that we don't see people as they are, we see them as we are. Q, though he's lusted after Margo for years, doesn't really know her and must face up to this fact. On the one hand, I found it refreshing to see the cliché of the Popular Girl who suddenly notices the Unpopular Boy smashed apart and its pieces examined.

However, I also couldn't shake the feeling that John Green makes way. too. much. of a big deal about Q's faulty perceptions. If Q had ONCE briefly reflected, "gee, I've loved Margo all these years, but I never really knew her", that would have been fine. But Green hammers his point into the ground ad nauseum. The addition of this overarching theme also made it difficult for me to connect with the central (sort-of-)love story between Q and Margo. Philosophy comes at the expense of heartfelt emotion in this case.

I suppose I wanted to like Paper more than I actually did. John Green, like his contemporaries Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, is writing zeitgeisty, funny-yet-serious books about teens, which don't come with After School Special morality tales attached - and he is rightly being lauded for it. But, with its lumpy plotting and clumsy philosophical message, I ultimately found Paper Towns a bit of a mess.
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Location: Bristol, UK

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