"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review: Paper Towns

I finished Paper Towns by John Green last night at 12:15 am. This is the first John Green book I've read, and you should know I came to this book with several already formed expectations:
1. It would be funny. Some of the funniest scenes were (somewhat) spoiled by my friends when I happened to be around while they were talking about the book.
2. It would be well written. I don't know if you've yet stumbled upon the phenomenon that is John Green. If you haven't, know that he is pretty much the equivalent of a YA superstar. His books have won numerous awards and have pretty much all been on the best-seller list at one point or another. Needless to say, I was expecting to be blown away.
3. It would be very John-like. One thing that is the most unique about John Green is his online presence. He is one half (the other half is his brother, Hank Green) of the extremely successful Youtube channel: Vlogbrothers. And after watching so many of his videos, I started wondering wether or not the John Green I saw on Youtube would be the same John Green that I saw (heard?) while reading this book.

Before I tell you wether my expectations were lived up to, here's the jacket copy of Paper Towns: 
"Who is the real Margo? Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life- dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge- he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover than Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues- and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew..."

And now for wether or not Paper Towns lived up to my expectations:

1. It is funny. No, it's hilarious. I can't remember the last time a book made me laugh this much. Every other chapter I was doubled over, and even when the stakes are raised Green manages to slip in several more hilarious scenes. The dialogue is sharp and witty and the cadence of teenage speech is spot on. The perspective is decidedly male, and there is no shortage bodily function jokes running throughout. Even for someone who's not necessarily a fan of that kind of humor, it's impossible not to laugh when you're in the grasp of John Green's deliciously funny prose.

2. It is well written. At the beginning I was somewhat skeptical of this fact. The writing wasn't extraordinary, but it wasn't bad either. And as I read on, my doubts disappeared one by one. The book isn't filled with flowery language, but it doesn't need to be. Instead, Green's style is both frank and profound. He has a strong grasp of what he is trying to say and he says it well. All of the characters felt genuine, even the adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman, who the reader doesn't fully understand until the end. He captures high school friendships beautifully: the main character's two best friends get along most of the time, but also get on each other's nerves. There is also a philosophical side to the story, which ties in with Walt Whitman's poem "Song of Myself."As well as metaphors about paper towns and strings and the things that hold us together and make us see and understand each other for who we are. These are the parts that most remind me of the "Youtube John Green," which leads to the final section of this blog post.

3. It is very John-like. Of course, I don't pretend to know John Green personally. I base this solely on the version of him that I've seen from watching his Youtube videos. But while reading this book, I couldn't help hearing his voice. It is his humor and his philosophies and his heart. If you watch John's videos, you can't help feeling like you know the author of this book, and that makes it an even more worthwhile read.

Overall this was a genuine and beautifully written book. If you haven't read it (even if you're an adult and don't normally read YA) I highly recommend it. If you have read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

It seems fitting to end this post the same way John Green would: Don't Forget to be Awesome!


  1. Aahh! I really want to read it now! I mean, I wanted to read it before too, but after reading your review and the little blurb on the jacket(ok should have read that a long time ago, and I thought I had, but apparently not!) I want to read it even more! Ha. Even with all I've heard about Paper Towns being laugh-out-loud funny, I've been reluctant to believe that it's actually that funny for two reasons:
    First, if I have lower expectations, I'm more likely to be pleasantly surprised. Second, I just don't laugh out loud when reading books much. But since you thought it was hilarious enough to double you over(what an odd expression), I'm more open to the idea now, because I don't think of you as a huge laugh-out-loud-while-reading person either! So yay! This is exciting!

  2. Yay! I'm glad you're planning to read it! You're right I'm not really a laugh-out-loud reader either, and it's true that I didn't really laugh as much as my mom did (she read it in one evening and there was about 4 straight hours of intermittent laughter) but it's definitely the most I've laughed while reading a book in a LONG time. I'm really glad Paper Towns was my introduction to John Green books :)

  3. I read this book in one sitting, laughed out loud many times, and recognized my teen self and friends in these characters. It was also a great mystery. As a parent I was forced to realize that if we're not totally horrible, then we become sort of irrelevant, which is hard on my ego . . .but I can live with it 'cause it's pretty much true an is probably best. :-)