You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
–Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
Paper Towns is a theme-heavy novel, one of John Green’s gifts. I won’t go on and on about my extreme fondness for this author, as previously stated in my review of The Fault in Our Stars. As he has written many novels, there’s bound to be disappointment. Nobody’s perfect, after all. And everyone has different tastes and different expectations.
I was not disappointed by Paper Towns. It met all my expectations, though never exceeded them. The writing is witty; the characters are perfectly flawed and rounded; and the themes remain obvious, yet redemptive. But there is something repetitive and tiring about this novel. The story isn’t new or riveting. It’s a basic cautionary tale for naive teenagers in love.
There’s a lot of mystery in Paper Towns. What is a paper town? Why does Margo recruit Quentin’s help? Where does Margo go? The biggest mystery of all—who is Margo?
The main character, Quentin, is determined to solve these mysteries. He’s especially determined because he has been in love with Margo since they were kids. Or rather, he has been in love with the idea of Margo. Enter caution sign #1.) Infatuation is not love.
The antagonist, Margo, is self-centered, vengeful, confused, mentally unstable, and kind of a jerk. Enter caution sign #2.) Some people aren’t ready to be loved.
In the end, lessons are learned the hard way, as most of us experience as teenagers (and as grown-ups). If young adult readers use their intellect to connect with their hearts when reading this novel, they could save themselves a great deal of heartbreak. Alas, human nature is hard to fight.
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless…
I adored the use of some of my favorite artists to beef up the themes of Paper Towns. Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, and Bob Dylan all get a shout-out.
Paper Towns is divided into three sections: Part One- The Strings, Part Two- The Grass, and Part Three- The Vessel. I love how John Green brings this all into play thematically.
“If you choose the strings, then you’re imagining a world in which you can become irreparably broken. If you choose the grass, you’re saying we are all infinitely connected…The metaphors have implications. Do you know what I mean?”
You’ll have to read Paper Towns to discover the meanings…and choose one for yourself.
John Green’s Author Page on Amazon
Paper Towns on Goodreads
John Green’s Webpage