Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green

Okay, people, the hype machine is strong with this one. I have described myself as a Nerdfighter, someone who is both nerdy and altruistic, and thinks John and Hank Green are pretty neat. It’s not a requirement for Nerdfighters to (re)read every John Green book with a giant box of tissues, but you feel a certain amount of peer pressure to at least know what the books are about. Because spoilers contribute to worldsuck, if you want to know what the books are about, you’d better read them yourself! Warning: spoilers to follow about The Fault in Our Stars if you’ve hidden from the book AND movie, and are still interested in watching/reading someday.

I’ve read Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. The Fault in Our Stars was a good story and it made an okay movie. It wasn’t a tearjerker for me (and remember, I had an ugly cry reading something Shane Dawson wrote). Looking for Alaska was much more plausible and relatable, in my opinion, and I felt like the characters were experiencing genuine teenage struggles. That’s not to say a terminally ill teen wouldn’t authentically experience the struggles in TFiOS (it was based on a real person), but TFiOS makes a point of stating that the world is not a “wish-granting factory” while sending a teenager on a romantic getaway with her boyfriend to Amsterdam because he saved his wish. The characters experience personal growth and it’s an emotional ending, but I really still prefer Looking for Alaska. LfA ends with questions, and it’s okay. The point that TFiOS tried to make was that life beyond death is not yours to know and control. LfA comes at it from the opposite side of the situation.

Paper Towns, like TFiOS, is being made into a movie, so before that hits theaters, I decided I’d better read it. I had a credit for a free audiobook from Audible, so I followed along with my paperback in an attempt at Immersion Reading. After a while, I just started listening to it while I plucked my eyebrows or painted my nails. It’s not so deep you can’t multitask, and it’s a short book (8 hours on audiobook). I’ve read the first couple chapters a number of times before, swearing each time that I’ll finish the book, and then never picking it back up.

Guy has an obsession with a childhood friend. Childhood friend does crazy things. Insert scavenger hunt wherein guy realizes that people are complicated. Big revelation for a teenager. It was getting exciting for a while when I was expecting the worst and the main character still thought he was playing a game. When he started to have the same doubts and concerns, it felt real for a moment, but then magic happens and everybody’s wrong in a good way. Insert fun roadtrip with friends (best part of the whole book), and an ending that slaps you in the face, but then strokes your cheek and tells you it didn’t mean to hurt you. In every way, Paper Towns is to me as Margo is to Quentin. You’ll figure it out if you read the book.

It had some good concepts, but I just wasn’t all that impressed. We’re meant to feel just okay about the ending so that we can empathize with Quentin. Sort of “Well, that’s done. This is what happens when you have expectations about things external to your self.” So far, the themes I’m drawing from John Green revolve around the central concept that you do not know anyone or anything outside yourself. Not what happens to the world when you’re not in it. Not what went through another person’s mind when they left the world. Not what’s really ever happening inside any other person ever. It’s not yours to know. Just focus on the relationships you have and worry about what’s going on inside you.

In its failure to excite me at the ending, it at least made me think. I think it is worth a read.  I feel bad for breaking down some of the hype, because if I hadn’t gone into it expecting to be blown away, I don’t think it would have delivered the same message in the end.  But your opinion of the book isn’t mine to decide, so you get to make up your own mind when you read it.

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