Paper Towns is Paper Thin: A Book Review

o-PAPER-TOWNS-facebookThere are so many things to hate about Paper Towns that it’s hard for me to know where to start. Perhaps I’ll make a list, since that tends to help organize my thoughts.

1. Quentin. The protagonist of Paper Towns, who largely goes by “Q,” has potential to be a pretty cool guy. Q is smart and funny and seemingly has his life on track. He has great friends. He’s usually pretty relatable.Q

Enter Margo (who we will discuss later). Margo, Q’s next-door neighbor, is the sole focus of his obsession and attention. She is the sun he revolves around. Though we all have been through pathetic obsessions at one point or another, this takes it to another level. The guy misses his own graduation, neglects school, and forces his quest for Margo down his friends’ throats rather than letting them enjoy their final few weeks in high school. His love for Margo ends up coming off as incredibly pathetic and leaves the reader wondering if he is a bit unstable.

2. Dorky or Cool? And other inaccuracies… At the beginning of the book, we’re led to believe that Q and his posse are the ultimate dorks in high school. Loveable dorks, but dorks nonetheless. They are the guys the jocks beat up, the guys who play video games every waking hour…you know the type.

If that’s the case, why are tides of classmates parting to let them by when they walk down the hall? How does Ben suddenly convince Lacey, arguably the most beautiful girl in school, to be his one-and-only? Why are they suddenly included in the cool kids wild drunk-fest? There’s very little believability in the whole “we’re dorks” concept, so I wonder if Green only added it to make Margo seem even more out of reach.

There’s also a lot of weird inaccuracies with regards to how teenagers use technology. There is almost no mention of texting in the book, but for some reason these teens are IMing up a storm every night. For some reason, they don’t seem to know how to Google things, and instead ask each other for URLs via their IM program. None of the hot girls are Instagramming selfies.

All in all, the characterization is as flat a single sheet of paper.

3. Margo Roth Spiegelman. Like many serial killers, Margo Roth Spiegelman has three names. She also appears to be as mentally unstable as a serial killer, so I suppose it makes sense.

margoMargo is a cliché within a cliché. She has it all—looks, beauty, brains, popularity and a feisty personality to match. She’s basically Rizzo from Grease—she’s tough, sarcastic, and has a comeback for everything. But deep down, she’s troubled and damaged. Fraught with worry over being a “paper girl,” a term she uses to describe a person with a false façade, Margo takes up running away in her spare time to get away from the horribleness that is real life. I’m sure the teen audience the novel is intended for thinks that’s pretty cool, but it shows a very important characteristic that Margo herself embodies—a narcissism so complete that it wounds everyone around her.

Rather than taking the many talents she is so lucky to possess and putting them to good use, Margo instead chooses a friendless, homeless existence living in abandoned buildings. Author John Green tries to make this self-discovery the stuff heroes are made of, but it falls disappointingly short.

The book wasn’t all bad. It moves at a rapid pace and Q’s posse have some humorous banter. But I spent so much time thinking, “WHY is he still chasing this dumb chick?” that I couldn’t stay interested.

What I WOULD be interested in reading is a “Where are they now?” book, set 20 years in the future. By this point, Margo’s legendary good looks will have faded and with them, her ability to get food and shelter for free. Her decision to ignore school and career and “live free” will mean that she’s a bag lady. Inevitably, she will become the faceless person on the street reaching out a hand for Q’s leftovers as he exits a restaurant with his lovely wife and children.

Is it obvious that I don't recommend you buy the book? :) As timing would have it, you may be interested in picking up a free copy. John Green is hosting a Goodreads Giveaway for his book this week (August 7th-14th). If you feel so inclined, you can Enter Here to win 1 of 20 free copies.

Overall Book Rating: ** 2/5 Stars


S. M.