Award-winning author John Green follows up his 2007 novel “An Abundance of Katherines” with “Paper Towns.”
Set in the family vacation mecca of Orlando, Fla., Green has constructed a vivid, often hilarious, always true-to-life novel of growing up and apart. The story follows Quentin Jacobsen and his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman. Although they were childhood playmates, they’ve long since gone in separate directions “ Margo is the enigmatic leader of their high school, while Q is the bookish outsider, playing video games with his friends and hanging around the band room.
Then Margo “ the mysterious adventurer and champion Of random Capitalization “ appears at his window one night, pulling him into a nighttime adventure that changes Q’s outlook on his last high school days.
The experience of their one night together and the consequences the next day set into motion a series of events that changes Q forever. Unraveling the odd clues Margo leaves, Q and his friends spend their last days tracking someone who may be dead, may be indifferent, or may just be screwing with them.
The plot of Green’s book twists and doubles back, making readers feel as perplexed by the complicated clues as the characters. But it’s those characters that really drive this novel, not the mystery.
Q’s parents, a pair of psychoanalysts, spend much of the book patting themselves on the back for their normal son; Q’s friend Radar lives in a home recognized as having the largest collection of black Santas in the world, and his oldest friend Ben cares more about scoring a “hunnybunny” than hanging out.
Green’s portrayal of young people growing up and dealing with the trauma and excitement of everything from prom to first cars to realizing that nothing can stay the same forever will resonate with everyone. His wit is superb and his dry observations are hilarious.
It’s the end, however, that truly makes the book more than just average. Whereas most authors would look for a tidy ending, something clean and concise and reassuring, Green instead opts for reality. The truth is, once graduation is over, you may not stay in touch, you may not remain friends forever and you many not, after all, get the girl.
“Jenny Coon Peterson