After being impressed with The Fault in Our Stars, I decided to try another John Green book. Luckily, Paper Towns was available as an e-book from my library. First published in 2008, this YA novel is written from the perspective of Quentin, a student about to graduate from high school in Orlando, Florida. I really liked his character, which is just as well, because the novel is character-driven. The plot is thinly spread over the pages, but as with The Fault, the novel is about life, friendship and literature, with a little romance.
Quentin’s next door neighbour, fellow student, crush and legendary wildchild, Margo, goes missing. No one except for him seems to be worried about this, as she often goes on adventures, but some clues she left behind suggest that her mental health is a cause for concern. He commits himself to finding her, enlisting his eccentric friends, Ben and Radar, in the quest.
I enjoyed many aspects of this novel, but halfway through my attention started to slide. I felt that the text was unnecessarily wordy at times, for example when Quentin is musing upon Walt Whitman’s poems. Sometimes less is more; extra words can obstruct the author’s meaning. I’m not sure that Quentin’s thoughts needed to be described at length. I also felt uncomfortable that some of the characters used the word ‘retarded’ as an insult. I realise that John Green is aiming to accurately reflect young people’s slang, but I still didn’t like it.
The ending of the novel is an anti-climax but I think this was intended as an affirmation that life is about the journey, not the end. I also took away the message that you can’t really know someone; you can imagine what it’s like to be that person, but making assumptions about them can lead to conflict.