Review of ‘Paper Towns’ by John Green

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.

9 thoughts on “Review of ‘Paper Towns’ by John Green”

  1. I also got bored of this book and found the ending anti-climatic. I wanted more plot!

    I’ve read a few John Green books and I think they’re all quite similar – you’ve definitely read the best one first.

    1. Yes it definitely lacked plot. I might read more of his books but I’m not in any rush 🙂

    1. Thank you! If you do read it, I’d be interested to know what you think, as I know you’re a John Green fan 🙂

  2. Interesting that you found the ending anticlimatic. Not that I would argue that it isn’t, persay, but I would say it is building up to a major point: the deconstruction of the manic pixie dream girl trope. He finally finds her and fiiiinally realized she is a real and flawed human that has very little to do with his vision of her. While the events could certainly be called anti-climatic, I felt like there was a certain build up to that point that culminated there and made for a satisfying though calm kind of climax.

    1. Hmm yes, I get what you mean about it being a different kind of climactic ending – in terms on actual things happening, it’s not a lot, but the flawed vision thing is certainly important and I suppose fits the kind of book it is, better than something more dramatic. Thanks for your comment!

  3. A friend of mine recommended the fault in our stars but I still have yet to read it Somehow I’m so not drawn to it. My hubby loved the movie though. Then came Paper Towns. Not a fan of the cover lol but anw, I too dislike it when the weird retarded is used. Sedaris used it in one of his stories too and it really put me off. I doubt I’ll read any of John Green’s books… I just don’t knw why ? probably the covers or titles?

    1. If you were going to read any John Green, it would be TFIOS, but although I was glad I’d read it, I recognise it wouldn’t appeal to everyone.
      I don’t like tie-in book covers, because most film posters are awful anyway. I read the e-book and it was the tie-in edition.
      I feel a little put off reading other JG books but I expect I will read them at some point 🙂

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