Paper Towns

John Green
  • Review
By – February 15, 2012
Mar­go always loved mys­ter­ies. And in every­thing that came after­ward, I could nev­er stop think­ing that maybe she loved mys­ter­ies so much that she became one.” This is high school senior Quentin Jacob­sen, the pro­tag­o­nist of John Green’s newest nov­el, Paper Towns. Quentin, aka Q, has been in love with the beau­ti­ful Mar­go Roth Spiegel­man since the two of them dis­cov­ered a dead body in the park of their Orlan­do sub­di­vi­sion when they were nine years old. Now on very dif­fer­ent paths (Q is an uber-clever nerd, while Mar­go lives in the pop­u­lar zone), she shows up at his bed­room win­dow in the mid­dle of the night for a fun­filled night of revenge, thrills, and cre­ative pranks. In the morn­ing, Q drags him­self to school, with hopes of explor­ing his new and improved rela­tion­ship, but Mar­go has dis­ap­peared. Q is obsessed. If he wants to ful­fill his fan­ta­sy, he’s got to find her. She has left a series of cryp­tic and clever clues that include Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, the use of cap­i­tal­iza­tion, and a place called Agloe. The ques­tion is: does she want to be found? And if not, will she still be alive when they find her? With the help of his friends, Radar and Ben, as well as Margo’s friend, Lacy, Q takes the read­er on a road trip that is unex­pect­ed, full of heart, and laugh-out-loud fun­ny. In Paper Towns, Green cre­ates ful­ly drawn band geeks, intel­lec­tu­als and gamers. The dia­logue is smart and sophis­ti­cat­ed and if for no oth­er rea­son than to see what they will do next, the read­er stays put. Their jour­ney is hilar­i­ous and heart­felt. Paper Towns does not con­tain Jew­ish con­tent. Although both Mar­go and Q have Jew­ish names, the only time Judaism is men­tioned is when Q thinks about say­ing Kad­dish. But this is a book that smart Jew­ish read­ers should read. Show­ing Jew­ish kids in a sec­u­lar sto­ry can and will bring them to the table to talk about Jew­ish issues. This nov­el can spur a dis­cus­sion on a num­ber of top­ics: death, sui­cide, revenge, accep­tance, and for­give­ness, and may even get some to open up Whit­man. But more impor­tant, Paper Towns shows smart kids being smart, doing dar­ing things. We see them fol­low­ing their inter­ests and suc­ceed­ing, even when corny. Q, Ben and Radar may not be pop­u­lar, but they are friends. They are not out­casts. Girls like them, often for their brains. And that’s not a bad thing to talk about with our kids. This is a hero’s sto­ry, and high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers 14 and up.
Sarah Aron­son holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ver­mont Col­lege. She is a full time writer and has recent­ly pub­lished her first nov­el, Head Case (Roar­ing Brook) for young adults. Sara blogs every Thurs­day for the Lilith blog.

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