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Paper Towns: Learning to Imagine People Complexly

Updated on November 29, 2013

I must admit, I was a little wary of this book. Although John Green is one of my favorite authors, and I loved his book "The Fault in Our Stars," I was worried that this book, which revolves around a deconstruction of the common trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (essentially a wacky and crazy girl whose only purpose is to inspire love in the dull, emotionally dead protagonist), would be too didactic.This became a greater worry when I read the book, and found myself distinctly not liking the subversion of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and worrying that I was supposed to be on her side when I wasn't.

However, as the plot went on I discovered that I had little to fear, as the plot became more complicated and the morality of the story more nuanced. I had little to fear, as Green's writing was both funny and thoughtful, and his characters all multilayered and multitextured.

Our protagonist is Quentin Jacobsen, known as "Q" by his friends. Q has been in love with his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman for ages, but has never made his feelings known to her. Margo, on her part, has become infamous for her tendency to disappear and reappear significantly later, having gone on some ridiculous adventure or other.

Then, one night, after Margo learns that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a friend of hers, Margo appears at Q's window and persuades him to accompany her on a grand quest for revenge against those who have wronged her. The experience is so bizarre and exhilarating for Q that he looks forward to hanging out with Margo more.

But Margo doesn't show up the next morning. She's run off this time, and probably for good. However, Q discovers that she may have left him clues to find her, and he desperately wants to find her.

Green, as I mentioned before, is fantastic at writing in a way that's light and funny, and then making things that are significant and meaningful arise naturally out of the story. It seems totally natural, and it makes his books both fast and fun reads, and incredibly powerful ones.

"Paper Towns" revolves around the concept of imagining people complexly, and realizing that the person who you meet and the person they actually are can be quite different. Q discovers that Margo is a different person to the many people who knew her, and he also figures out that Margo and others don't necessarily know the real him either. It's a very interesting idea to build a story around.

Q as a character is very interesting. He is resourceful, clever, determined, and empathetic. While everyone else largely views Margo as disappearing for attention or to be deliberately mysterious, Q worries that Margo may well have killed herself (given some comments she made during their adventure). Q's determination is also very notable, as he discovers clues Margo was not intending to leave and, once he thinks he's found a solution, goes with his friends on a truly insane roadtrip to see if he's right. The description of the roadtrip, where the car is essentially in constant operation for twenty four hours straight, is my very favorite part of the book, by the way.

All in all, this is a very fun but very powerful book. I loved this one almost as much as "The Fault in Our Stars," and I look forward to reading the rest of John Green's books as I am able to fit them into my reading schedule. Definitely go find this book, as it is definitely worth it.


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