Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

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Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: October 16, 2008
Publisher: Speak
Format: Paperback
Pages: 305
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from March 8 to 10, 2013
My rating: 5 stars: I love it! It's amazing! + Favorite
Summary: 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 of the girl he thought he knew.


“Here's what's not beautiful about it: from here, you can't see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You can see how fake it all is. It's not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It's a paper town.”

I love Paper Towns so much that I have been at a loss for words for one whole week. I thought I love Alaska, but I love this even more. This book is perfect to me.

(Right now, it's hard to form coherent responses to this book, since it's been a week and my feelings are not as intense as they were right after I finished it, so please bear with me.)

There are a lot of things I loved about this book. I loved the story, the characters, the intertextuality (Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"), the mystery, and most of all, damn, I loved the ending. I loved it so much. I remember being hurt all over while reading this book. Like Looking for Alaska, reading it gave me some kind of warmth, soothing and intense at the same time. It was sad, but it was also more than that. I spent a few minutes trying to write down what I think this story is a mixture of, but it all came out wrong. It's one of those books you really can't summarize. The whole thing is just too sublime to be wholly reduced or contained in just a few petty sentences.

Besides the story, the characters in this book are just wonderful. I understood Q as well as I could easily place myself in Margo's shoes. The thing about loving someone from afar is that it comes with this distance, which is big and wide enough for you to imagine and fill in the blank whatever you want about them, and sometimes you can't separate reality from imagination, because, for you, they are embodied in this one figure, and you end up believing this conjured-up thing/person to be real and inseparable. It's easy to think you love someone unattainable, but the truth is it can be more about you than about them--because the thought of attaining the unattainable gives you pride or makes you feel good about yourself or whatever. Looking from a distance, you don't see the cracks or flaws; but what if you don't like what you see when you're up close? Will you feel betrayed or deceived? Will they still be what you think you want? Will Q still love the real and exposed Margo?

I could relate so much with Margo, and that made me love the book even more. This girl, who carries herself with poise on the outside and marvelously kicks ass on a daily basis, is filled to the brim with all the pent up unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life. And I just totally get it. In this manner, Margo is pretty much like Alaska in Looking for Alaska, whom I also love. To me, it's crystal clear why she needs to go away so desperately, why she just can't hold on for one more second. I respect her because she doesn't waste time talking about what she's going to do, she just goes ahead and does it. Her determination and having the courage to go through with her plans are something I look up to. What I also love about her is that despite her determination, she doesn't push it, but instead gives herself time for second thoughts, a chance to change her mind.

I think John Green played with these ideas very well in Paper Towns, with a lot of depth and sophistication. I also loved that he took the other turn for the ending, the less cliched one, which is all the more rewarding and painful for readers (or at least for me). I remember having a crying jag near the end of the book; I felt everything and it was overwhelming. It was just so beautiful, what with things so messed-up and wrong and expectations ruined—and yet, amid all that destruction, there's so much beauty in it that is so, so real and so raw. I don't know if I'm making sense, but I can tell you the ending of Paper Towns is one of the best book endings in all history of my readership. This book is very clever, too, and touching, and definitely the best thing I've read since the beginning of 2013. A five-star kind of magnificence. A new favorite I plan to reread a lot in the future.

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

3 comments:

  1. Great review! My favorite character is Ben, he makes the book a little less serious.
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