Monday, April 9, 2012

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publisher: Speak, 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Rating: 5/5

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.

Paper Towns won the Edgar award as the best Young Adult mystery of 2008. Discuss the book as a mystery. How does it fit in with other books in the overall mystery genre? With other YA mysteries? Were you continually captivated by the search for Margo, and did Green play fair with the clues he provided? Is this book primarily a mystery novel, or primarily a realistic contemporary novel? Are such categories important, anyway? Why or why not?

I haven't read that many mystery novels, so my definition of what makes a mystery novel is a bit sketchy, but I guess I could call Paper Towns a YA mystery. However, I think it's primarily a realistic contemporary novel. Paper Towns is more about how people see each other that about searching for Margo. The search turns into something more with each clue as Q's idealistic image of Margo slowly changes. She is not the girl he thought she was, Q is not the person he thought he was, and the same with his friends.

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

It's realistic because we do create these perfect or horrible images of people, but how many times we get the time to find out the truth behind this paper cut figure we've place in front of the real person? This is what I loved about Paper Towns. It made me think of things that I'd been doing and reevaluate. At the same time that Q changes his perspective on all things Margo, we are inspired to change our way of thinking. The thrill of the search became not about finding Margo, but about what new revelation Q would have.

“It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined.”

As far as categories go, they are important to me. If someone had tried selling me Paper Towns as a mystery novel I wouldn't have picked it up because I just don't read mystery. If they had tried selling it as a realistic contemporary, I also wouldn't have picked it up because most contemporary novels bore me. But see, this is because I've created set ideas about these genres. I guess we not only create perfect or horrible images of people, but of books too. Paper Towns managed to blow this prejudice away because I loved both the mystery and the realistic part of it.

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