Okay, so to start with, let’s list out some ingredients that make a perfect John Green book, 1. It has to be about high school kids, 2. There should be some mysteries to be solved, 3. We need some humour, that’s very important, 4. And most importantly, no matter how the book as a whole is, the last hundred pages should be
gold so that the reader doesn’t have any complaints.
This, more or less, defines John Green’s Paper Towns for me.
Whenever I pick up a John Green book, I also embrace myself to get into the ‘John Green World’ which would allow me to look at characters who are actually around me in a different light because each time I come out of a Green book I find myself challenging the way I think, the way I behave… But I’m afraid that factor is missing in this book.
The story is about Margo Roth Spiegelman, a high school senior, who one night shows up at Quentin “Q” Jaboson’s window to go on an all-night ride to accomplish certain tasks but the next day mysteriously disappears. Now Quentin, who apparently loves her, must find her using the clues she has left behind for him. Yes. That is the story!
There is nothing fresh in the story here, in fact, Green himself has written a couple of books – Looking For Alaska and Turtles All The Way Down – based on the same theme, and sadly this doesn’t have anything much new to offer. The story, seen from the eyes of Quentin, is simple but lacks a kind of energy and punch that I expected from such a book.
The story is divided into three parts – the Strings, the Grass and the Vessel. The first part deals with the overnight road trip with Margo, the second part is about what happens after the disappearance and the third part can be called the climax of the book. The metaphorical meaning of all these parts is explained in the end very fascinatingly which connects all of it.
One major trouble I had with the book was that I never really got too invested in the characters to empathize with them, especially Margo, so I couldn’t find any good reason for Quentin to search for her. The reason is pretty simple, before disappearing Margo appears just twice in the story and doesn’t make any major impact.
There’s one thing I’ve noticed about John Green books is that he touches some mental concepts which make you question your mundane thinking, that element was again missing here.
Some sequences are so unnecessary that it feels as if Green had a target to hit 300-page mark, what else can better explain a dodge-the-cow sequence which felt completely out-of-place, as though taken from some other book altogether.
The thing that is guaranteed in a Green book, in general, is humour. You’d have a good time with this one if you are all in for laughs. And take my word, you wouldn’t be able to control your laughter while reading the scene where Ben, Quentin’s best friend, pees in a beer bottle. I’m not the kind of person who usually laughs while reading but this one’s got all things in place and I could find myself laughing out loud on various occasions.
And, no doubt, there are some very well crafted conversations and scenes like Q’s conversations with Lacey at a party and a chat with Radar at his home. Or the last day at high school which comes up by the end of the second part of the book and that is the first time when the story starts to gain momentum, finally. Most of it otherwise, is a slow-paced drama drowning in water only coming out once in a while to get some fresh air.
It is said that all’s well that ends well but even the ending left me unsatisfied, it wasn’t an open ending per say but by the end of it all I had a lot of questions which were left unanswered by Green, questions which must have been dealt with prior to the closure. I wouldn’t tell you those questions because that way I would have to give away the story which you might not appreciate. But once you read the book, you can find that for yourself.
It can be said that it’s not a conventional John Green book, it’s not the conventional ‘John Green World’ but whatever it is, it has some major issues with it. I would be lying if I said I liked the book but its because I had way too high expectations from Paper Towns. It is sloppy at times especially towards the middle but once it takes pace it flies way up high like a Paper Plane…
I’m going with 2.5 stars out of 5.