Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Paper Towns by John Green
If you like: road trips * the Cool Girl * cryptic messages
In Paper Towns, Quentin spends an adventure filled evening with Margo, his next-door neighbor and unrequited love, the night before she disappears. This is not the first time she has disappeared, but Quentin worries that something has changed this time. He tears apart her life and possessions for clues about why she left and where she may have gone. She has left ambiguous clues for her family before, but Quentin knows this time is significant because she left the clues for him. Along with his best friends, he devotes the last weeks of his senior year to finding Margo, and trying to understand who she really is.
Among the clues left behind are references to paper towns. The words have taken on many meanings, and Quentin carefully sifts through them to reveal the clues to Margo’s life. This begins a journey around many abandoned and desolate areas surrounding Orlando. Each stop has unknown potential. Each new place could be the one where he finds Margo, or finds another clue to the truth of Margo. The world is full of mysteries, and so many are completely outside of the perspective of the average high schooler. Quentin’s world expands exponentially as he begins to understand that each person is more than his view of them, and that the places on the map may not always live up to his expectations. In many ways, this was Margo’s goal. She didn’t mean for him to understand the clues, but to find the world.
As high school comes to an end, the undefined future can be incredibly overwhelming. College may be a given for some, but the school itself and choice of major are open ended. There is no right or wrong answer. After nearly two decades of following an identical path to the rest of your classmates, this process is unnerving. The future is wide open after high school, and your life is what you make of it. In some ways, this makes the journey Margo lays out for Quentin an interesting one. He decides to take his future, and maybe hers, into his own hands before graduation. At the same time, he also uses this exploration as a way to avoid all the signifiers of becoming an adult. He eschews the prom, and so many of the other picture perfect moments of senior year. He uses the search for Margo as an excuse to delay finding himself. Skipping out on the milestones is a way to avoid the coming change, and put off dealing with his unknown future. Margo's siren call may lead Quentin to places he would never have been otherwise, but it also helps him to avoid growing up. Skipping out on those moments doesn’t stall the progression of time, but years down the road skipping out on your friends and missing the commonalities of modern culture may leave Quentin wondering if it was all worth it to chase down a girl he never really knew at all.
If you are sure that you will figure out all the clues, read Paper Towns.
Green, John. Paper Towns. Dutton Books, 2008. Kindle Edition.