Tuesday, February 10, 2009
book review: paper towns, by john green
A paper town is a utter fiction - a place that exists only in maps created by mapmakers eager to keep potential thieves from plagiarizing their work. In a sense, Margo Roth Spiegelman is a fiction too. To Quentin Jacobsen, she's a miracle - a sort of manic pixie dream girl who's "the kind of person who either dies tragically at twenty seven like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, or else grows up to win the first-ever Nobel Prize for Awesome." 

Adorably nerdy Quentin (Q) seems to have spent his entire life in love with with myth of Margo, so when she shows up in his bedroom - dressed like a ninja inviting him to join her on a campaign of nocturnal vengeance - he is too flattered to refuse. It's a wild night that leaves play-it-safe Q exhausted, exhilarated, and hopeful that he and Margo can rekindle the friendship they one had as very small children in a time before deeply entrenched social cliques.

Apparently, Margo does not share the same sentiments, because come morning she is gone. Mere weeks away from graduation, Margo has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth, although no one but Q seems too terribly concerned. She has, however, left a web of clues behind - clues which Q believes she has left because she desperately wants to be found. With little more to go on than a marked-up copy of Leaves of Grass, Q sets off to unravel the mystery of where his dream girl has gone, and in the process learns something perhaps more important: There are no dream girls. There are only girls, and loving the idea of someone is unfair to the actual person whom you've romanticized into fiction.

I heard about Paper Towns while attending a conference on notable new releases in Young Adult Fiction, and was eager to read it after my presenter called it a "masterpiece." Personally, I think that word may have been too freely applied; however, Paper Towns is one of the best books written by one of the best Young Adult authors doing it today. It's a fresh and compelling mystery that is smartly written and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but it is really quite excellent. If you're a person who, like me, maintains a Young Adult library, then consider Paper Towns a must-have addition.

Paper Towns
John Green
2008, 305 pages

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Blogger Carrie said...

Nice manic pixie dream girl reference. I find that phenomenon tiring now, so does the female character get on your nerves?

Blogger Mrs. White said...

Actually, she wasn't in the book much, so no. It annoyed me at first, but then it didn't take quite the Zack Braff turn I was worried it would, and the ending resolved things nicely - dispelling the feminine mystique, so to speak. Made me happy.

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