Monday, July 25, 2011

9. Paper Towns - John Green (2008)

She was quiet for a moment, and then she walked right up to the glass and leaned her forehead against it. I hung back, but then she grabbed my T-shirt and pulled me forward. I didn't want our collective weight on a single pane of glass, but she kept pulling me forward, and I could feel her balled first in my side, and finally I put my head against the glass as gently as possible and looked around.

For me this excerpt perfectly encapsulates the personalities of Margo and Quentin, as well as their unusual relationship. Since childhood Quentin has loved his mysterious and forth-right next-door neighbour Margo, but she never seems to notice him. That is until one night of revenge and adventure lead to Margo's disappearance and a trail of clues seemingly meant for Quentin alone.

Starting out I wasn't sure if I liked this book. Margo was infuriatingly aloof (however I guess that's the point) and obviously troubled, and yet Quentin remained pathetically acquiescent to her wishes. It got better once Margo left (that sounds a bit harsh doesn't it) as the mystery surrounding her disappearance culminates in a well-narrated and tangible fear that she has come to harm, while highlighting the interesting emotional journey that Quentin and those others with ties to Margo go through, especially in how the former views the world, himself and his idolisation of Margo. In exploring the act of desertion, John Green similarly attempts to explore the internal motivations of the individual, successfully navigating the reader through various emotions and ideas that leave one examining themselves by the end.

Some of the characters were very odd and a bit two-dimensional but what held this book together for me was Quentin and his determination to find Margo. Oddly I found this book more satisfying before the very end because of the agreement that Quentin had come to within himself, and while I still find Margo annoying, I appreciate her humanness and how imperfect she is, juxtaposed with the miraculous vision that Quentin has in his head.

Final verdict - Not hugely realistic perhaps only because I know no one who talks quite like Ben, but thought-provoking with interesting themes and a strong main character.

3 stars

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