Before I begin this post let me just say that I’m not a big fan of teen-lit. Myracle’s TTYL was entertaining and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by Lockhart was stupendous (my review of it here) but for the most part I find that most books aimed at teenagers are full of flat stereotypes and hard to believe plots (I’m thinking Scott Westerfeld (with the exception of Peeps) and Meg Cabot and Stephanie Meyer). John Green‘s Paper Towns surprised me by being not a young adult book that I found fun but a young adult book that I tore apart with glee.
The story is simple enough: “Q” is a member of the lower social ranks in his Floridian high school who lusts after his childhood friend, Margo, who has risen to the head of the high school pack. A few weeks before graduation Margo sweeps him off on a night of insanity before she vanishes from the planet. It falls to Q and his quirky (I normally shudder when a book review uses the word quirky but what else would you describe a dorky-wannabe-Bro and a family that… well I’m just going to say black Santas) friends to follow the clues and track down Margo. Along the way these students don’t discover anything big or mysterious about themselves or the world but simply how impossible it is to truly understand others and yourself.
Did you get that last line? It’s one of the reasons why I loved Paper Towns. There is no lofty moral in Paper Towns, simply a reminder that we are beautiful beings, complex and multifaceted.
The other reason why I love Paper Towns is that it doesn’t gloss over high school life. There is swearing and there is drunken debauchery and there is borrowing the family minivan. We’ve got stupid sex jokes, toilet jokes, fart jokes and references to Walt Whitman.
Like his second novel (An Abundance of Katherines) John Green once again demonstrates his ability to craft an intricate plot no less complicated than a mystery and set in a highly realistic teen world. This coming of age story has a ten out of ten stars from me.