Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns


Paper Towns surprised me. On the surface it is about a boy: Quentin Jacobsen, who is besotted with a girl: Margo Roth Spiegelman, and when she goes missing, Quentin goes on an expedition to find said girl. However, there is so much more to Paper Towns.




Margo is an idea, a brand, to Quentin, and to so many others.
Quentin uses her as a vessel for the ideas and images that he wishes to associate with her: 'She looks like Margo Roth Spiegelman... this girl who was an idea that I loved.' Green emarks on this theme throughout Paper Towns.

Even Margo's best friend, Lacey Pemberton notes: 'I had no idea who she really was. I honestly never thought of her as anything but my crazy beautiful friend who does all the crazy beautiful things.' Lacey too, only sees the glossy surface of Margo.

Quentin comments, 'It is easy to forget how full the world is of people...and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined.' 

Often, we see the exterior projection of a person, and then we fabricate the rest. We don't see through their cracks, see who they really are. We'd rather create them ourselves. There are hundreds of different versions of everyone, of you, because no one see's you in exactly the same way. People comingle a part of themselves with the image of you. Their own ideas fuse with your identity. 

Quentin says, 'I am thinking about the way you can and cannot see people.' And so it is with Margo in Paper Towns:

Margo: 'I looked down and thought how I was made of paper...People love the idea of a paper girl. They always have. And the worst thing is that I loved it, too. I cultivated it...Because it's kind of great, being an idea that everybody likes.'

Quentin recognises this at the end of the novel when he says to Margo: 'we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other.' 

Green makes a great reference to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath when Margo says, ''But when it came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn't do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn't in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get at.'' 

The question of identity isn't just within ourselves, identity as a concept is warped and damaged. We are all 'paper people living in paper towns.' And so often, only the false, exterior images of people, places and things are sought after, focused on, produced.

Aside from the theme of identity, the book brilliantly touched upon youth. Quentin: 'I don't know how I look, but I know how I feel: Young. Goofy. Infinite.' 
I love those last three words, they encapsulate the feeling of uncertainty and the feeling of immortality, you feel as though you will never get old and what you are feeling now is everything. Just with Quentin discovering that his idea of Margo was only that; an idea. So too is the future. Nothing ever happens like you imagine it will.  

By the end of the novel Quentin seems to understand what it means to imagine and create things inside your head. When he is planning when he will next see Margo he says, 'And maybe by imagining these futures we can make them real, and maybe not, but either way we must imagine them.' That is what the human mind does. Think. Imagine. Create. And John Green has encapsulated that idea within Paper Towns.

I fell in love with this book for the ideas and messages it held. It has a clever lay out, which all comes together in the last section of the novel. Green's writing style is easy and charming. It is definitely a must- read. I've now devouring another John Green; Finding Alaska, which is maybe even more charming. Definitely give both of them a go.