As the first review, I've decided to do the book that I most recently finished while it's still fresh on my mind - Paper Towns by John Green. To be honest, as a huge fan of vlogbrothers and a budding Nerdfighter, I may have a bit of a bias but hopefully it was offset by my skepticism of Young Adult romance novels. Although I am an avid fan of John Green as a person, I had never really taken a great interest in his works as a writer. This may be because I first found him during the time of my first encounters with more mature works and my departure from Young Adult novels and I was really looking for something different. As good as they were, by then I was a bit sick of cheesy romance stories and was looking for something more adventurous and mysterious. That was when I stumbled onto the video of John reading the first draft of his prologue to Paper Towns and it gripped me straight away. I felt like I had finally found what I was looking for and it never left my mind. Although this happened quite a while ago, I only just got an actual copy of the book last Christmas and didn't open it until just a couple weeks ago. Now let's start on the actual review!
At first it seemed like a typical teen romance novel: nerdy boy secretly pines for popular girl, but it quickly picks up the pace as Quentin got caught up in Margo's high jinx. The book is divided up into three sections: The Strings, The Grass, and The Vessel; each representing the different aspects of Margo's definition of a "true person". To me, The Strings are the connections Margo had made throughout her life in her town and the section explores her relationships with the people around her including Quentin and how she deals with them leading up to her disappearance. The Grass is her roots to this "Paper Town" as she calls it and her disappearance symbolizing her need to get away from them, and finally, The Vessel explores the "true Margo" and see how the Strings and the Grass had affected her. Each section is not only for us readers to get to know the "true Margo" but also to follow along as Quentin deals with the people around him and how he slowly progresses to understand and see the people that he thought he knew as who there truly are. There are comedic incidents that keep us laughing, mostly provided by Ben, and deep, thought provoking times when we start to question how we see the people around us. The overall mysterious and adventurous air surrounding the search for Margo was the main fuel that made this book different from all the other romance novels I had read so far.
Paper Towns is a coming of age novel of a boy who starts off as a narrow-minded, self-centered child who never bothered to see people beyond what he imagined them to be and grows up to be a man who is able to understand and accept people for who they really are. I don't think it's a coincidence that this is all happening around the time of Quentin's high school graduation. The romance comes from Quentin's devotion and dedication to finding the "real Margo" but Margo is not the only person he discovers on his journey. Ben, Radar, and Lacy are also major players in opening Quentin's mind as he starts to understand that a relationship requires mutual understanding of each others characters and needs. In fact, the growth of Ben and Lacy's relationship becomes the main example of love spouting through forming a new understanding of each other and parallels the result of Margo and Quentin's relationship.
Paper Towns is in no way a "perfect book" for all readers. It does have moments were it felt like it dragged on, especially between the lull of Margo's disappearance and when they start deciphering the clues, and the side characters could have been further explored and expanded on as they were an interesting component of the story that I felt had lost a bit of their potential (especially Radar), but it definitely was an amazing ride and one of the best Young Adult novels I had ever come across so far. It fully explores what it means to really understand and know a person and pushes the readers to think outside of their own wants and needs which is something that teenagers, like myself, need to do. It also portrays the difficulty of maintaining a relationship realistically shown by how the romance was never sugarcoated to fit the demographic and the ending stayed true to the main message of the story. It was a very satisfactory ending that closed up all the questions neatly but didn't really leave me wanting more.
Overall, Paper Towns is a fantastic novel that I recommend to any and all teenagers as they grow into adulthood and I hope each and every one of you are able to break out of your paper lives.