About a minute ago, I had just read the very last word that concluded the widely acclaimed book by John Green called Paper Towns, and to be honest I don’t know what to feel or simply decipher how I feel. Before I begin my review and like Quentin, Radar, Ben and Lacey always did in their down time, I’d like to play a quick game of “Metaphysical I Spy”…I spy a feeling that may or may not trouble me from perceiving that I have just read something profound that I simply cannot decipher.
This may be a flaw of mine, but I put John Green on a pedestal. Yes I admit, up until this very minute, I have read all of his works ‘cept “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” and “Let It Snow”. So in a sense, I have read all of his independent works except the books he wrote in collaboration with other authors, as aforementioned. This article won’t entail a usual formulaic summary as the first paragraph, and then the book review as the second paragraph, rather I’d like to just write down my thoughts as they form. My addiction to the books written by Green is like every mushy story of a drug addict who after every rehab visit can’t seem to stay away from drugs. So what I am saying is that I am a crack addict and the works of Green combined in one is my crack. This present feeling of euphoria I feel and the feeling that I have just read something deeply profound yet pretentiously shallow is how I feel every time I finish books written by John Green. I mean this is an exact quote from Margo Roth Spiegelman, the protagonist’s love interest in Paper Towns, “Did you know that for pretty much the entire history of the human species, the average life span was less than thirty years? You could count on ten years or so of real adulthood, right? There was no planning for retirement. There was no planning for a career. There was no planning. No time for planning. No time for a future. But then the life spans started getting longer, and people started having more and more future. And now life has become the future. Every moment of your life is lived for the future–you go to high school so you can go to college so you can get a good job so you can get a nice house so you can afford to send your kids to college so they can get a good job so they can get a nice house so they can afford to send their kids to college”. If anyone out there is reading this quote and hasn’t felt the exact same thing that inspired Margo to say the aforementioned quote, then I doubt you will be a big fan of Green. That’s what his writings accomplish; it appeals to you and breathes life into your silent thoughts.
Aside from the brilliance of his writing, this book alone showcases characters in their true humanness. I mean, Quentin Jacobsen, the protagonist of Paper Towns is an incredibly flawed character, a big anti-hero. Like every cliché romantic fiction novels out there, you would expect to fall head over heels in love with the protagonist, because you want him/her to be an escape from reality. Someone perfect who will take you on an epic adventure across a utopian fictional universe. However, that wasn’t the case for me while reading Paper Towns. In fact I found Quentin incredibly annoying. His obsession with Margo and his even greater obsession with finding Margo, as well as figuring out all the clues she left in her wake while she went missing even made me dislike his character a lot more. It’s because I couldn’t fathom how someone could be supinely obsessed with someone else that his or her life almost takes precedent to yours. This is exactly how Quentin made Margo seem; she became the centre of his universe even if she didn’t beg him or want him to make her into a goddess. But the brilliance that is Green justified Quentin’s incredible hamartia when Radar, one half of Quentin’s best friend, was giving him advice on getting over a fight he had with Ben, the other half of his best friend. Radar said, “You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves. I mean, I could hate you for being massively unpunctual and for never being interested in anything other than Margo Roth Spiegelman, and for, like, never asking me about how it’s going with my girlfriend – but I don’t give a shit, man, because you’re you. My parents have a shit ton of black Santas, but that’s okay. They’re them. I’m too obsessed with a reference website to answer my phone sometimes when my friends call, or my girlfriend. That’s okay, too. That’s me. You like me anyway. And I like you. You’re funny, and you’re smart, and you may show up late, but you always show up eventually”. When I read this part of the book, I simply placed the book back on my reading table, made sure I had bookmarked the page I had last read and simply began to salute the invisible presence of Green. It all made sense to me and that was my aha moment of the book, when I realized I was expecting Quentin to be something else he wasn’t. To be someone who wasn’t obsessed with Margo; To be a know-it-all; To be an absolute fiction; To be my perfect hero. In the end, he was a character much like every other human being that was very flawed and imperfect. So I began to think, how many times in my life have I expected people to be anything but themselves? And how many times have I expected them to be the way I had just imagined them to be? So, this is all to say that we can’t fault people for being entirely themselves because that’s the only thing they truly can be.
Another central theme that was explored in the book was the concept of creating an idea of a person in our minds, where they almost become someone completely different than they truly are in reality. In the book, Quentin was obsessed with the mysterious Margo, who would go on spontaneous adventures and was also very fond of dropping everything completely and escaping it all without looking back. This Margo created by Quentin is fearless and is more than a girl. This Margo was created by Quentin the day they found a dead man’s body at a park when they were both nine years old. The misconception of the real Margo in Quentin’s mind is a true disease that affects us all. We are simply all slaves to our mind’s creations. We simply are alone with our thoughts, thus giving us room to add and subtract certain traits, and ideas we deem other people in our lives should have. So, I began to soften towards Quentin as the book reached its end because he was simply a victim of his mind’s incessant creations. He transitioned from an annoying character to a more human one within the 305 pages of the book, and I couldn’t help but empathize with him as he made the following statements, “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person”… “The fundamental mistake I had always made – and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make – was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl”
Lastly, I’d like to end this review by acknowledging all the great and wonderful fans of John Green. If you especially loved reading Paper Towns and my review of the book, then you will want to checkout the trailer that was recently released for a film that’s been adapted from the book. I trust that if Green executive produced the film then it will stay true to the book. But for now, I look forward to reading more John Green because it’s already been established that sometimes crack addicts just can’t stay away from crack.
But before I finally write my last full stop, I’d like to end with one of my favourite quotes from the book, “The town was paper but the memories were not”.
Watch the trailer for the film adaptation of Paper Towns below:
IMAGE CREDIT: Emma