Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review | Paper Towns by John Green

“The town was paper, but the memories were not.”

Paper Towns by John Green

Published by Speak
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: September 22, 2009
Pages: 305
Other Books By John Green: The Fault In Our Stars, Looking For Alaska

My Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back 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 that 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 of the girl he thought he knew

Teisha's Review

Allow me to make a PSA:  I adore John Green--every piece of paper his pen touches turns to gold.  That is my honest opinion.

I've read Looking For Alaska and I've read The Fault In Our Stars.  So, I've just been keeping the John Green wagon rolling, moving on to Paper Towns.  (Next I'll read An Abundance of Katherines.)  Like the other two novels of Green's that I've read, Paper Towns did not disappoint.  

It's taken me some time to write this review; I always find it difficult to review Green's novels because they are all so brilliant and deep and I am afraid that nothing I say will ever do them justice.  Even to say that his books are "brilliant and deep" is an understatement.  

Here are the five reasons why I gave Paper Towns 5 out of 5 stars:

★ Realism

Teenagers.  Senior Year.  Self Discovery.  Wanting more out of life.  I can relate.

John Green's novels are the books of our generation.  He gets us, Generation Y, the Millennials.  Generations before us tell us that we don't know struggle, and that we haven't accomplished anything.  But, Green understands and defends us with his novels.  His stories say: "Hey! This is what these kids have to deal with.  The world is tough today.  Getting into college isn't easy.  Getting a job isn't easy.  And, finding something more, finding self-satisfaction in this generation sure as hell isn't easy".  

That's what Green's books mean to me, and that is why I believe them to be so profoundly important and unique.

Paper Towns is no exception.

★ Characters

I admit that the two main characters of Paper Towns, Quentin and Margo, did remind me of Miles and Alaska from Looking for Alaska.  Many readers of Green's novels are critical of him for these similarities.  Those critics say that his stories (excluding The Fault In Our Stars) are all the same--the nerdy, sarcastic/funny guy meets the beautiful, complex girl who wants a different life than the one she's living.  And, the girl helps the guy understand a bigger picture of life.

For some readers, this story gets old.  But, for me it doesn't, because John Green has written them all so well.  The supporting characters are what make these stories unique.  There's Radar, Quentin's tech savvy friend whose parents own the world's largest collection of black Santas.  And, there's Ben who is the story's comic relief, always cracking jokes and unsuccessfully trying to woo girls.

It may be reminiscent of Looking for Alaska, but Paper Towns definitely stands on its own.

★ Mystery

The mystery of this story is what really keeps readers turning pages.  

After Quentin and Margo go out on an adventure of mischief and revenge, Margo doesn't show up for school the next day.  The story revolves around the mystery of where Margo has gone.  Did she runaway again, as she's down several times in the past?  Or, did something serious happen to her?  Was she kidnapped?  Is she hurt?  

No one is as determined to find Margo as Quentin is.  And, the mystery of her whereabouts takes him and his friends on the road trip of a lifetime.

★ Depth

John Green's books are full of metaphors.  Even one of the most popular quotes from The Fault In Our Stars is proof of this:  "It's a metaphor."

Paper Towns is also filled with metaphors.  In fact, the term "paper town" is a metaphor itself.  In actuality, a "paper town" is a copyright trap.  Map makers would put fake towns on their maps, kind of like signatures, so that they would know if anyone had stolen or copied their maps.  John Green got the inspiration for this novel from a road-trip he took with a college buddy where they came across a "paper town".  In Green's novel, a "paper town" represents a place filled with one-dimensional people, people who never change and never search for something more.  

These metaphors are deep, and will leave you thinking about and questioning the way you look at life and the world you think you know.  The recurring motif of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" will also keep you pondering over this story.

★ Message

This is where writing this review becomes difficult.  How can I encapsulate the message of Paper Towns into a short paragraph or two?  I can't say that there is one large message.  There seem to be a lot of small messages throughout.

I mentioned the metaphor of "paper towns", but there is more to the story than that.  The novel isn't just about wanting more out of life or about living in a town surrounded by "paper" people.   Paper Towns is about how we perceive and understand others.  We look at people, and we think that we know who they are, but usually we're wrong.  How can we think we know someone else when many of us hardly know ourselves?

When Quentin looks at Margo, he sees the beautiful and popular girl who lives next door, but by the end of the novel, he learns that Margo is someone completely different.  People aren't one dimensional.

Paper Towns is one of those books that you'll dog ear, highlight, and come back to again and again because of its insightful and universal message.


I think it's needless to say that I highly recommend Paper Towns.  This novel is funny, thought-provoking, adventurous, mysterious, and emotional.  It is all the things you want to find in a well-written novel and more.  

And, if you haven't read Looking for Alaska or The Fault In Our Stars, I recommend those as well. 

And, just an FYI, a movie is going to be made of Paper Towns.  Nat Wolff, who starred in TFIOS as Isaac will play the role of Quentin.  According to IMDb, the film is scheduled to be released some time next year.  If The Fault In Our Stars is any indicator of Green's book-to-movie success, then I'm sure Paper Towns will not disappoint.

Have you read Paper Towns?  If so, let me know what you thought of it in the comments.  If you haven't read it, do you plan to?  Have you read any of Green's other novels?

Talk to you soon!

--Teisha xx


  1. Great review! I've been wanting to read this book for a while!

    1. Thanks so much! I'm glad you liked it. And, I hope you enjoy the book when you read it:)

  2. I did not particularly enjoy this book, but great review. :)
    I thought The Fault in Our Stars was a much better book, although in general I am a much bigger fan of John Green himself than his books (have you seen his history videos? They're great).

    1. Thanks so much! And, sorry you didn't enjoy the book. The Fault In Our Stars is definitely my favorite Green novel, and I think it's that way for many of his readers. I haven't seen any of Green's history videos, but I am subscribed to his VlogBrothers channel and watch those videos occasionally