Let me start off by saying I really loathe this cover. On its own, it is fine, but when I realize it is supposed to be Margo Roth Spiegelman, I’m not a happy camper. That is not how I picture her in my head AT ALL. So I prefer the cover with the map and the pushpin on it. But anyway . . .
Paper Towns is the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen. Q is part of the nerdier crowd. He used to, as a child, play with his neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman, but she has moved onto the more popular crowd so Q must watch her from afar. Until one night a few weeks prior to their high school graduation. Margo has discovered that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with her best friend. Not only that–she believes that her other best friend, Lacey, has been in on the secret and purposely keeping it from Margo. So Margo decides to seek revenge.
Margo shows up at Q’s window one night in full black face paint and requests that Q escort her on her revenge mission. Q aquiesces and the two spend a long night playing over the top pranks as well as breaking into Sea World. Q wakes up the next morning itching to get to school so he can see Margo, but she never shows. Turns out she’s gone. Q is convinced she’s left clues for him so he tirelessly tries to discover her whereabouts.
The synopsis above probably sounds trite. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convey it in the way I wanted to, because this book is anything but trite. It is one of the most thought provoking YA novels I’ve ever read–in fact, I would say it read more like an adult novel. From the start of her disappearance, Margo is an enigma. We get all these glimpses of her from different people–her parents, Q, Lacey . . . and all seem vastly different. The reader really starts to question the idea of perception. The way I see myself may not be how she sees me or he sees me, etc. etc. This idea is really driven home during the end of the book. Unfortunately, by that time, I was admitedly getting a little annoyed with the book. The first few chapters, with Q and Margo on there one night adventure was stunning–some of the best fiction I have read all year. But then Margo disappears. And Q starts looking for her. And you think he’s discovered her. And then he hasn’t. But then maybe he has. But he hasn’t. The whole thing became very repetative to me and I ended up getting bored with the story.
There is, however, a lot to be gained by listening to the book on audio. Margo is awesome. I fell in love with her right away. The narrator was a man, but he was able to convey Margo’s voice in a way that worked well for me and I loved listening to his rendition of her. Radar and Ben, Q’s two best friends, really shone through as well on the narration. They added a comic element that really spiced things up.
As much as I loved Margo at the beginning of the book, I wasn’t too sure about those feelings by the time the book ended. Did I like her or did I not? And if I didn’t like her, was that really any fault of her own? Or was it because she didn’t live up to my expectations? It was almost as if I myself became a character in the book. I felt like I had invested almost as much as the others had in their search for her.
I haven’t read Green’s other books yet, although I plan to. I’ll be interested to see how they compare to Paper Towns.