Quentin Jacobsen or “Q” for short, has been in love with his next door neighbor and classmate, Margo Roth Spiegelman, since they were nine years old and had the misfortune of discovering a dead body on an outing to the park together. Now in high school, Margo hardly seems to know Q is alive until one unforgettable evening she slides open his bedroom window and invites him along as her sidekick on an all night, eleven part revenge mission. Q and Margo deliver smelly-fish-and spray-painted justice to Jase and Becca, here cheating boyfriend and best friend respectively, and to Lacey, another undermining friend. They sneak and wheedle their way into the Sun Trust building and Sea World by night, and Q collapses into his bed just before the rest of the world wakes up. Q can’t help but fantasize about the ways his recharged relationship with Margo will play out at school.
But Margo doesn’t come to school the next day, or the day after that. She has run away for the fifth time but not without leaving behind two very frustrated parents and a trail of clues like breadcrumbs that Q decides to follow. Q enlists help from his best friends: Ben, the band-nerd, and Radar, a top contributor to the online Wikipedia-esque Omnicitonary, whose parents own the world’s largest collection of black Santas. Together, they piece together snippets from a Woodie Guthrie record and Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and find their way to an abandoned strip mall contain traces of Margo. On one wall, Margo has written this cryptic message, “YOU WILL GO TO THE PAPER TOWNS AND YOU WILL NEVER COME BACK.”
A paper town, as it turns out, is figuratively a superficial, soulless place (think Q’s strip mall and and theme park filled suburb), and literally a made-up place included on a map to protect its copyright. Q and his crew, joined by Lacey, persist in their fruitless search of surrounding paper towns, until a string of pins in a map and an anonymous post on the Omnicitonary page of paper town, Agloe, New York, gives the search party a new lead. Skipping out on graduation, the group drives up the East coast to Agloe, where they find Margo safe and sound. But the reunion is not as sweet as Q had imagined. Margo is shocked and angry to be discovered and confesses that she is a “paper girl”, as flimsy and as elusive as Agloe and other paper towns. And Q realizes that the girl he dreamed about is more invention than reality.
Yaroos! gives Paper Towns 3.5 Stars out of 5 Stars. While John Green has written a strong narrative, full of action, intrigue, and characters with interesting quirks, this book is not quite as seamless as his other books. Perhaps because Green’s work is so consistently excellent, the flaws in Paper Towns stand out more starkly in comparison. The plot is a bit overwrought and, with the exception of Q, the characters can seem more like sketches than the fully realized characters we’ve come to expect in Green’s novels. The great news is that even with a few off-notes, Paper Towns is still an engaging and worthwhile read.
Quentin Jacobsen, or