Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paper Towns

I love free stuff. Okay, that's a bit inaccurate. I go crazy for free stuff. When I see on somebody's blog "post here and you might get free stuff" I do it. Right that second. The kitchen could be on fire and my daughters running around screaming their brains out and I would be typing very, very fast. When I saw on (stands for What Adrienne Thinks About That) that if I was the first to post, I would get a free book, I had to make sure I was the first to post. Adrienne is a librarian and blogger and woman of hilarity who writes excellent Queen Amidala diary entries and reviews fabulous books and has ideas for librarians and gives away free stuff. Specifically, to me.

The book was Paper Towns by John Green and it was an ARC copy, meaning Advanced Reader Copy or Advanced Review Copy or something like that. It's not published yet, but the publisher sends out freebie copies for people to review and buzz about. It's not complete and is subject to change, but for the most part, it's what you'll get when the commoners buy it later. I know nothing about John Green. Never read anything by him, and knew nothing about his books. I was a wasteland of John Green knowledge. But it was free, man. Gotta have it.

Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman have been next-door neighbors since they were toddlers, but they haven't been friends in almost a decade. Now it's their senior year and they're about to graduate with Quentin still in love with Margo and Margo still pretending Quentin doesn't exist. Yes, ripe full of teen angst this one is! Whoa, I wrote like Yoda there. Cool. Anyway, just a few weeks away from graduation, Margo sneaks into Quentin's room and invites him on an adventure that he cannot resist. They spend all night pulling pranks on Margo's cheating ex-boyfriend, friends that she had trusted and one of Quentin's least favorite people. They have a great time together and Quentin sees his opportunity to finally connect with Margo again. The next day, Margo is missing. She's run away (the third time she's done that) and her parents throw their hands up. Nobody seems to care to look for this free spirit except Quentin. He's convinced there's more to it than her typical melodrama that she likes to inflict on people. When he begins his search for her, he discovers that there's a whole lot more to this girl than he realized and that what he knew of her was mostly a pretense.

I always wanted to be that girl, like Margo, who was adventurous, uncompromising, dynamic and drew people to her like a magnet. But I was more like Quentin: conscientious, goal-oriented, relies on his friends, does the right thing all the time. I became more adventurous in college and after, but high school is such a gauntlet. You're under such close scrutiny that I wasn't brave enough to do anything but what was expected of me. Margo does whatever the heck she likes, regardless of the damage it inflicts on everyone around her. But she's also deeply hurting, dealing with her personal pains in the way she knows how. It doesn't excuse some of her behavior, but it does explain it. Quentin is such a good kid, such a loyal friend, so patient with Margo's imperfections that it's not a bad thing to be a kid like that.

This is a book written in the language of teenagers. I'm sure it's being marketing in the Young Adult market, but honestly I think it's a great adult novel too. The characters speak, think and act like teenagers. I found myself identifying my years in that stage with different characters. Quentin's friends are hilarious, sex-obsessed, normal teenage boys. Margo's friends seem shallow, but you get to know them better as the book goes on. The only thing I didn't like is the assumption that everybody is or will be having sex and drinking beer. If you ask most honest teenagers, that's not really the norm as it's depicted on tv or in books. But nothing is graphic and some of it is really funny.

A theme that permeats the book is that you don't know people as well as you think you do. Everybody makes assumptions based on how people act or look, but really, you don't know people. I remember feeling that way in high school. If only people really knew me! You should hold your judgements and get to know someone better before you place them in a category. Or better yet, trash the categories and enjoy the person. Because of Margo, many of these characters begin to look at each other in different lights. Because of Quentin, people are brought together who wouldn't be otherwise. This book ends with a rocking graduation adventure and the twists along the way make it a page-turner. There's an awful lot of Walt Whitman in this book, which makes me ashamed that I've never read Leaves of Grass. I'll get right on that and I'll also be adding more John Green to my repertoire from now on.


  1. So

    you must have won the book?
    Thanks for the great review. I will look for him too.


  2. I really want to read that book now. When is it available for us common people? It sounds like something I could really relate to, just like you did. High school is such a drama, and it seems refreshing that there's a book out there that is striking down stereotypes that always exist in high school movies and books. Thanks for the great review.

  3. That sounds awesome! I can't wait to read it!! I've gotten ARCs of a few books. It's exciting! Congrats on winning!

  4. I think it comes out in October sometime. Check out John Green's blog sometime for some serious hilarity.

  5. "A theme that permeats the book is that you don't know people as well as you think you do."

    I just had one of these experiences yesterday. I was visiting with a childhood friend whom I haven't seen in many years. We were very good friends when we were young and spent many hours and overnight trips at each other's homes. So I was really surprised when, after mentioning in passing how my large family struggled to make ends meet, she said, "That's funny, I never thought of your family as not having a lot of money." What?! Are we talking about the same people?! So yeah, I guess you just never really know!

  6. Welcome to the Green land. It sounds as if you enjoyed Paper Towns a great deal (and so did I), so I'm sure you'll enjoy his previous two novels as well - Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. Give them a try, plus As Simple As Snow by Gregory Galloway.

    Adrienne rocks.

  7. Ahhh, I love recommendations. Thanks, Little Willow! They are going on my list right now. If not for people like you and Adrienne, where would I be? Re-reading the same stuff over and over and over again.