Friday, 8 August 2014

"Paper Towns" | Book Review

See image credit below
Quentin Jacobsen has loved Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar since they were children. When she climbs through his window one night with a revenge-filled adventure planned, he jumps at the chance to reconnect with her. The next day, he arrives at school to find that she's missing - and she's left him clues regarding her whereabouts.

I want to start with the positive on this one: I think the message John Green sends in Paper Towns is extremely important for everyone, not just the young adults whom this novel is geared toward. Through his characters' experiences, Green teaches us the dangers of falling in love with the idea of a person, without truly knowing the person in question.

My favourite quote from the novel is this: "What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person." This applies to so many members of our celebrity-obsessed culture; there are masses of people who fantasize about their favourite celebrity, but they aren't imagining the actual person because they don't really know them - they fall in love with the idea of the person they imagine in their minds.

Having said that, I must say this novel disappointed me. I consider myself a fan of John Green's writing, and indeed the writing itself is wonderful as usual in Paper Towns, but I found myself bored through much of the story. From the point where Margo disappears to the point where Q and friends decide to go find her, it was a bit repetitive in the search for clues and I found myself not really caring.

I think a big contributing factor to my disappointment is that Paper Towns has a very similar formula to Looking for Alaska, which is one of my favourite novels. I really didn't like seeing such a similar formula - nice, nerdy guy falls for unattainable girl, girl leaves in one way or another, boy learns a life lesson - it made it feel cheap. This story and its characters didn't affect me nearly as much as Looking for Alaska.

When I looked through the Goodreads reviews, I noticed that a lot of people didn't like the ending, but I actually really enjoyed it. It's yet another instance where Margo doesn't live up to Q's idea of her. It's then when it really hits home for Q that she's not the person he thinks she is because he doesn't really know her, he loves the idea of her that he's created.

There are some moments in this novel that I loved; as a road trip enthusiast, I found those scenes hilariously accurate and entertaining. Green's writing is beautiful and quotable as always and the novel's message is an important reminder to me. This is not a terrible book. But I was really disappointed to see a formula so similar to the one used in one of my favourite novels. I've come to expect a lot from John Green novels - perhaps I've created an idea that Paper Towns could not possibly live up to.

Read my reviews of The Fault in Our Stars, book and movie.

Have you read any John Green novels? If so, which one is your favourite?

Image Credit: electrictuesday via flickr in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.


  1. I've heard that from a lot of people, actually! (That it was repetitive). I actually feel the same about Alaska, because I read Paper Towns first, and reading Alaska I was like "I've read this before..."

    1. For sure! I'm thinking whichever one someone reads first will probably be the one they prefer. It's just really disappointing to see the same formula :/