My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Ohhh boy. Where to start. First of all, let it be known, I am a big John Green fan. Love him. I love his YouTube channel with his brother, Hank. I love that he’s so passionate about awesome things like equality and giving everyone a chance. I also really enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars. But I did not enjoy Paper Towns. At all. And I’m so disappointed! I really wanted to love it – in fact, I expected to. I had read TFIOS just a few weeks prior and thought it was a shoe-in. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Paper Towns centres around a male teenager, Quentin (or Q), who is a few weeks out from finishing high school when his next door neighbour (who also happens to be the girl he is in love with) suddenly disappears. The book follows his journey to find her and what happens along the way.
Here’s the big reason why I couldn’t get on board the Paper Towns train: I didn’t like anyone in the book. Not even Quentin. He was alright…I guess…but I didn’t find him interesting, funny, charming, mysterious – nothing. And as for his love interest? Margo Roth-Spiegelman? *cringes* …I kinda hated her. She was not enigmatic or endearing. She was an attention-seeking, selfish girl who didn’t seem to care about who she hurt (she had issues with her parents, which I understand, but she trampled all over Quentin and left her younger sister behind seemingly without a care in the world). I found I actively disliked Margo the more I read and I just couldn’t understand why on earth Quentin was so in love with her. The appeal was not made clear, in my mind. And then we have Quentin’s two best friends, Ben and Radar. Radar was fine but, unfortunately, didn’t have a big role. Ben featured more heavily and was a little too “I’m going to call all women candy-coated honeybunnies to the point where it gets creepy and uncomfortable” for my liking.
A flow-on effect of not liking any of the characters was that I did not give a fat rat’s about what happened to them throughout the story – I wasn’t invested in the narrative at all. I persisted because John’s writing style works well for me and out of a weird kind of loyalty. “I can’t not finish a John Green book! Maybe it turns around at the end?? Maybe I’ll feel differently once I’ve read the whole thing! Yes, yes, I’m sure I will!”. I really was so desperate to love it. But ya can’t force these things.
Having said all of that, I will say that there was ONE tiny glimmer of loveliness that caught my eye. Margo has written Quentin a list of things to buy from the shops, involving random capitalisation of letters:
“Interesting capitalisation,” I said. “Yeah. I’m a big believer in random capitalisation. The rules of capitalisation are so unfair to words in the middle.”
Being a bit of a linguaphile, I found that amusing and it ticks the manic pixie dream girl box that Green does so well, but these few sentences were the only thing I connected with throughout the whole book. And it’s got me stumped. So many people like, nay, LOVE this book, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why/how. And I want to! I want to understand what I’m missing!
Paper Towns is Green’s third young adult novel. I’m yet to read Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines but I definitely still want to. So far, I’ve read one outstanding novel by John Green and one extremely underwhelming novel by John Green. I’m keen to read the others to help make up my mind. Have you read Paper Towns? Or any other John Green books? Can you help explain what’s so wonderful about this book? What am I missing?