Author: John Green
Genre: Realistic Fiction/YA Fiction
Grade Level: 11+
Paper Towns is a book that truly surprised me. After the first section and Margo’s comments about her last string being broken, I really thought, “oh, come on, not another book about how suicide is so horrible because it really affects those who are closest to you.” I don’t know about today, but when I was a teenager, suicide prevention was one of the biggest topics. I still remember hearing over and over again, “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I know suicide is an important issue, no matter one’s age, but if the teens today are anything like me, one simply gets tired of hearing about how it affects those who are left behind, instead of focusing on why it really occurs in the first place. As a result, as I got toward the end of the second section of the book, that’s when I really got into it, simply because that was the moment when I realized that this book was not about suicide. Paper Towns is about the journey, not the destination. It’s about find out who we really are, and being able to accept that about ourselves and others. The book speaks to teenagers as well as adults, in that, I don’t know too many people who have found out who and what they are at 18 and then magically lived happily ever after. Even as adults we struggle to truly be ourselves. The idea of paper people is used throughout the book to describe how all people tend to show themselves to the world.
The writing in Paper Towns was both honest and educated. In other words, the kids in the book, while speaking like teenagers talk, also took the time to air the fact that they were smart in the use of their vocabulary. I placed the grade level as upper high school because of some of the vocabulary. The characters were really the focus of the story, and propelled it forward. The use of Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” was a wonderful literary mirror for the journey of Quentin in finding himself by searching for Margo. The setting of Orlando was ideal for the correlation between paper towns and paper people, in that there are few places on this earth that lay the claim as the home to the “happiest place on earth.” The description of the souvenirs sold all around created an interesting illusionary dynamic between the things, the place, and the people. The plot proceeded in a straight line primarily, allowing for times of memory, which allowed one to enter the story and hang on for the entire ride. I enjoyed the fact that it didn’t constantly start and stop but allowed me to both walk alongside the characters and experience their life the way we all live—from beginning to end, with memories tied in.