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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Paper Towns by John Green

Here we go with John Green: Take 3. Paper Towns is Green's most recent novel and with it, I've now read all three of his novels. (I haven't read the anthology yet, though it is on the TBR.) Paper Towns is about a smart teenage boy who is about to graduate and who is obsessed with his ideal of a specific girl who vanished. Wait. Isn't that the plot of Looking for Alaska? No, no, it's An Abundance of Katherines. Wait, no Colin had just graduated. Must be Paper Towns. So which one is it??

Ok, so here's what is says on the flap:

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar, so when she cracks open a window and climbs back 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.

So. Margo disappears, but not before leaving some hastily thought out clues. Despite graduation and finals approaching, Q spends all of this time obsessively trying to figure them out and tracking Margo's every moment. He firmly believes that she wants him to find her and that she has set it up so that he will find her by a certain date. Q is likable. He's smart, but not brilliant. He is looking for Margo for all the right reasons- because he is worried. Q has a couple of friends- Radar the internet obsessed and Ben, the girl obsessed, who help him find Margo. For the first chapter or so I was certain that I would not be able to finish the book, Ben is THAT annoying. He isn't such a major character as the first chapter would lead you to believe though, so I was able to continue. I didn't so much like Margo, and the ending left me a bit angry at her. I understand what Green was trying to do, but it was too heavy handed and obvious and I didn't buy the ending. Overall, I enjoyed the book but didn't love it. I'd put this one second to Looking for Alaska (my review), with An Abundance of Katherines (my review) a distant third.

Here's the problem though- when you're reading the third John Green, and I believe this would be true if you read them in any order, it is impossible NOT to compare them. All three seem to follow the same formula- smart kid, senior year in high school (Pudge, Q, Colin.) An unobtainable girl (Alaska, Margo, Katherine.) Annoying friend (The Colonel, Hassan, Ben/Radar.) An intelligent gimmick (Famous last words, Leaves of Grass, Mathmatical formula.) Parents who aren't involved (Boarding school, road trip, shrinks.) This doesn't make them less enjoyable, but it is inescapable.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Dutton Books
305 pages



  1. You speak the truth. I wonder if he recognizes that they are all the same.

  2. I haven't read any of John Green's work, but I want to. Maybe I'll read one and quit.

  3. Hmmm. Wonder if he writes with some sort of template. You should do an interview with him.

  4. Sooner or later, I'm going to have to read at least ONE of his books!

  5. Looking for Alaska is my favourite, too!

  6. Hmmmm. That's really all I have to say. I suppose sooner or later I'll get around to reading him, but I kind of fear my reaction will be like my reaction to Gaiman--which is, OK but what's the fuss? Sorry Nymeth if you read this!! :P

  7. I enjoyed Coraline, but it hasn't inspired me to pick up another Gaiman. I do read his blog, which is kinda interesting in a day-in-the-life kinda way.

    And yes, I'm replying to some comments in email and some on here. It's very confusing for me too.

  8. Sounds like Green found a formula that worked and he is sticking with it! But as much as I love to read a book that challenges my expectations, there is also something to be said for the consistent, predictable read every now and then. Like an old familiar friend. Maybe that is what Green's books can be.


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