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Paper Towns: John Green

Book: Paper Towns
Author: John Green (blog)
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 and up

Paper TownsPaper Towns is the latest book by Printz award winning author John Green (for Looking for Alaska in 2006). John Green is a gifted writer, and fans will not be disappointed by his latest effort. Paper Towns is the story of a high school senior named Quentin Jacobsen, who worships from afar a childhood friend named Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo is larger than life to Quentin, a perpetrator of elaborate pranks, and an unquestioned social leader. When Margo shows up at Quentin's window, wanting him to accompany her on a night of mischief, Quentin is changed forever. He spends the remainder of the book on a literal and metaphysical quest to uncover and understand Margo Roth Spiegelman.

I think that Green's talent lies not so much in plot, but in creating characters who do out of the ordinary things yet feel completely real. Quentin is an ordinary, slightly geeky kid. And yet, he isn't. His voice is distinct and believable. Here are a couple of examples:

"The longest day of my life began tardily." (Page 11, ARC -- first line after the prologue)

"A small, olive-skinned creature who had hit puberty but never hit it very hard, Ben had been my best friend since fifth grade, when we both finally owned up to the fact that neither or us was likely to attract anyone else as a best friend. Plus, he tried hard, and I liked that--most of the time." (Page 12, ARC)

"I spent the next three hours in classrooms, trying not to look at the clocks above various blackboards, and then looking at the clocks, and then being amazed that only a few minutes had passed since I last looked at the clock. I'd had nearly four years of experience looking at these clocks, but their sluggishness never ceased to surprise. If I am ever told that I have one day to live, I will head straight for the hallowed halls of Winter Park High School, where a day has been known to last a thousand years." (Page 18, ARC)

The latter quote is classic Quentin - expressing a universal experience, but in a witty, eloquent manner. Margo is a strong character, too, though necessarily more mysterious than Quentin. You can't help but like her, though, when she says things like:

"That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people would want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste." (Page 37, ARC)

I LOVE that. I think that every teenager should read and reflect on that idea (though in Green's hands, the concept is far from heavy-handed).

I also think that in this book Green captures the feeling that teens have during the last couple of weeks of high school. Quentin calls it the "high-school-is-ending-so-we-have-to-reveal-that-deep-down-we-all-love everybody bull-". But I think it's true. Perhaps not universal - I don't know - but the dynamics between Quentin and his friends as they attend end of year parties reminded me of my own end of high school experience. People opening up to each other in ways that they would never have done earlier in high school. People dating outside of their typical social groups. People attending parties with unlikely cohorts. Regardless of the details, I think that Green captures perfectly the tone of these interactions. Paper Towns would make an excellent graduation gift for teens.

Paper Towns looks like another hit for John Green. It's due out in mid-October, and is worth waiting for.

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: October 16, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Frenetic Reader, The Compulsive Reader, Reading Rants!, Kids Lit, Reviewer X, Karin's Book Nook, YA Books and More, Becky's Book Reviews, What Adrienne Thinks About That, Teen Book Review

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.