Review: Paper Towns – John Green


Quentin Jacobsen is a regular boring dude living in Jefferson Park in Orlando, Florida. He is in love with his next door neighbour, Margo Roth Spiegelman, though they have not been friends since they were children and she has moved on to be popular in high school. Quentin is in his senior year, almost at the end, and still lusting over Margo, who barely seems to know he exists anymore. One night, though, she appears at his window again, just like when she was a child. She whisks him out for a night on the town while she exacts her revenge on her now ex-boyfriend Jase for cheating on her with her best friend Becca, as well as Lacey Pemberton, her other close friend, for not having told her anything. The two discuss Robert Joyner, the dead man they found as children, and Margo continually makes morbid references. Ending the night, the two break into SeaWorld, and return home.

Quentin is sure that life will be different at school, but Margo does not come in for the day. Marcus “Radar” and Ben Starling are in awe of the retelling of Quentin’s night out with the legendary Margo Roth Spiegelman. Returning home, exhausted, he sees that Margo’s car is not next door, either. Still, he is sure that she has many other adventures to run and all that. A retaliation war breaks out at school, and Quentin emerges the hero when he uses some leverage that he acquired with Margo on their big night out against Jase, and soon everyone is brought back in line. Quentin is really starting to come out of his shell, feeling very good about himself, seeing things in another light. Still thinking of Margo, he is unhappy to meet with his parents, the Spiegelman’s and a detective one morning, querying Margo’s whereabouts. Seeing as she is eighteen, she cannot be seen as a runaway. The Spiegelmans are rather nasty and cold about the whole affair seeing as Margo has run away before, and Quentin and his parents understand why she would not want to be there. The Spiegelmans reveal that every time Margo runs away she leaves a trail of clues, and this soon becomes Quentin’s obsession and lifeline.

Dragging Ben and Radar into his schemes, Quentin starts to investigate Margo, learning more and more that she is not the girl he had treasured in his mind for all those years. It seems that very few people knew anything about Margo at all. Graduation is looming, ever nearer, and Quentin is more obsessed with Margo and what has happened to her than his own future. Some of their discussion from the SeaWorld night comes to him, and he is terrified that she has committed suicide, and left him these breadcrumbs to find her corpse. Quentin uncovers clues, and Ben and Radar help him, but they are not as obsessed. Ben discovered and abandoned mini-mall out of town that it seems Margo frequented, and he hunts there, though the trail is turning both ominous and cold. His friends withdraw their involvement, the clues have run dry, but Quentin is relentless, refusing to give up on Margo.

Where is Margo Roth Spiegelman? What happened to her? Why is Quentin so obsessed with her, to an unnatural level, even? How long will Ben and Radar entertain his fantasies? Will Quentin let go of his hunt for the girl next door and give his future some attention again, something he has been working on for years, or will he throw it away for a troubled teen?

GRADE 5.5It kills me to have to give a score like this to an author I have truly come to love, but I was not enamoured with this novel whatsoever. It all just seemed so… ridiculous. Which, by the way, is never a deal breaker for me, but just did not work for me here. For one, I never actually got to know or like Margo at all. She breezed in and out, and for the brief duration she was featured, she was an irritating bitch that had moments where she was cool, but more often than not was just someone who took herself too seriously and was just far too melodramatic for my taste. Then there is her disappearance and all these clues that she left behind. Which ended up dragging on for a century. Quentin, on the other hand, and both his friends Ben and Radar, do nothing in terms of making them likable. I was just about ready to freak whenever I read “honeybunny”. I mean Green always has a word that catches you in the books, but this was relentless. There was not one character that I could identify with and like. The story constantly felt like it was dawdling and not going anywhere, which just served to exasperate me some more. I could also not fully understand Quentin’s total obsession with this girl he has not been friends with since they were children and who just spent one night with and is now prepared to skip everything in his life (exams, studying, graduation, normal friend things and what not) to stalk her (because that is what it ultimately turned into). I have to say that I was disappointed, I was really let down. I am a fan of Green’s writing style, his expressions, and I have until thus far enjoyed the majority of his characters and the things that they go through. This book just left so much to be desired, which was such a pity. Table 9 Mutant, I think we agree on this.