After finishing The Fault In Our Stars (aka The Blue Book) in a blizzard of Kleenex, I wanted more of John Green’s writing. So I moved on to Paper Towns looking for more of the poignant and humorous narrative.
The first thing I’ll say is this definitely is not The Blue Book. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good and entertaining in its own way, but it’s a bit darker, a bit less hopeful. Which is funny considering that this is the one that isn’t about cancer.
The book starts off with two kids, Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman finding a dead body in the park near their houses in a suburban town in Florida. While Quentin is deeply disturbed by the questions and worries this experience brings up (being the son of two therapists he has a more of a grasp on the implications of the scene than many kids his age would have), Margo’s reaction is very different. She wants to know who the man was, where he lived, why and how he died. Her curiosity outweighs any sense of danger.
The book skips ahead several years. As the two kids got older they grew apart – Margo becoming a popular kid in high school and Quentin becoming more of an introvert and “good kid.” It isn’t until their senior year in high school that they spend time together – when Margo climbs into Quentin’s bedroom window and whisks him off on a night-long mission of revenge, adventure and discovery. After which she disappears, leaving Quentin a few clues and a need to figure out where she went.
The implied (and sometimes overt) sense of menace that was created by the deathly introduction to the story overshadows the rest of the book and makes Margo’s later disappearance take on a feeling of doom. As Quentin’s search continues for most of the book, he (and I, as the reader) became more and more convinced that her disappearance had a sinister undertone.
I enjoyed the character of Quentin – Margo a little less – and there are definitely parts of the book that are magical and evocative. But the middle half of the book dragged a bit here and there for me, and I found myself getting a bit bored here and there. To be fair, though, this could partly be because I read The Blue Book first, and it did set the bar pretty high. I stuck with it, though, and am glad that I finished it. Because it’s a young adult book, it’s a pretty quick read, so the fact that it slowed to a crawl in parts was forgivable and my overall impression of the book was that it was sweet and enjoyable.