By John Green
“The town was paper, but the memories were not.”
Paper Towns is a mystery, thriller book written by John Green, an American novelist. It was published on October 16, 2008 by Dutton Books. It debuted at number 5 on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s books and was awarded the 2009 Edgar Award for best young-adult novel. . The focus of this book; according to Green is the mystery in which the protagonist Margo Spiegelman has profoundly and consistently been misunderstood by the other main protagonist Quentin Jacobson who sets out to look for her but does not find her, in the sense that he is looking for the wrong person.
Paper Towns takes place in and around a fictional subdivision called Jefferson Park, located in Orlando, Florida. The book opens up with two nine year old children discovering a gruesome dead body that tied Margo and Quentin together for the rest of their childhood. Margo takes up the initiative to found out more the murder which showcases her love for mysteries. The chapter rightly ends with the quote, “Maybe she loved mysteries so much, that she became one.” The next chapter depicts both the protagonists who are now grown up, grown apart, and have found different identities in High School. However, Quentin is in love with Margo who is one of the ‘popular kids,’ very attractive and has lots of friends. Margo one day shows up at Quentin’s room at night and they go on a midnight drive where she sets up pranks to get the people who hurt her which included her boyfriend and her best friend. That night, Margo, refers to Orlando and their subdivision as a “paper town.” She describes it as “fake” and “not even hard enough to be made of plastic”. The day after their exhilarating journey, Margo goes missing. Quentin believes that Margo has left clues behind for him to comprehend and so he sets out with his friends to find her. In the end, he makes a connection using a map he found searching for her which leads him to discover that Margo has been hiding in a fictional town called Agloe, which was created as a copyright trap by mapmakers. Margo is upset about being found as she did not intend for it to happen. Quentin and his friends are shocked and angry at this reaction. However, Quentin comes to realize that the image he had been creating of Margo was not accurate as it was the show she had put on for everyone else, the role everyone expected her to play. He grows furious at her for wasting their time and worrying her family but, she argues that Quentin just wanted a troubled girl he could save. Ultimately, Quentin comes to accept that it was unfair to expect her to be more than just a person, and that she could not be blamed for being as imperfect as everyone else. The ending of the book is ambiguous and thought provoking. There are always questions that a reader can ask about what happens after the end of a story; there is always more to tell. For me, that’s one of the pleasures of reading.
In my opinion, ‘Paper Towns’ glows with an aura of mystery and a deep significant meaning behind every line. “Nothing ever happens like you imagine it will,” says Margo and this book is proof of that declaration. The theme of this novel is getting wrapped up in the mystery of something, and Quentin was completely taken up by the idea of Margo and the mystery surrounding her even though he had no real relationship with her. Though it may seem to be a novel with a typical storyline, the metaphors go well beyond it. The concept of Paper Towns and people leading Paper lives refers to how we normalize our lives and play out our roles like we’re meant to, not leaving any space for the mystery and thrill. Paper Towns are flimsy and planned; all things are paper thin and paper frail and likewise, are people. Margo wanted to get away from this as she loved mysteries and felt like no one could understand this. She was expected to play out a role in school, the attractive popular girl whose life seems perfect but she could not do this anymore. The strong point of the book are definitely the metaphors as the author connects them beautifully to the unspoken problems like the normalcy of daily life and how it leaves no space for thrill. This book has not disappointed me in any way so I dare to say that it does not have any weak points. The transition of Margo in the way that Quentin sees her is also remarkable. In the first part, he’s viewing Margo very one-dimensionally. She’s paper-thin to him; she is nothing but the object of his affection. In the second part, he’s seeing a girl who’s half there and half not—so he’s thinking about her with more complexity but still not really thinking of her as a human being. In the final part of the novel, his complex imagining reconnects him to her, albeit not in the way he might’ve hoped. “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person” says Quentin. I’d recommend this book to anyone who needs a little thrill and wants to get themselves, lost in the pages of a brilliant book.