Paper Towns by John Green

I am reposting this review because the Kindle Edition sale for $0.99 and the movie released today.

Paper TownsSummary: A troubled girl goes missing.  And no one seems to care all that much except for Quentin, her long time friend and next door neighbor.

This is my third straight coming of age novel.  And it is still somewhat surprising how different a single sub-genre can be. An Abundance of Katherines was about finding purpose and meaning in life (and ended up finding that living life was its own purpose.)  Wizard of Earthsea was about humility and realizing your own weakness is part of your strength; and facing yourself can be the hardest battle.  Paper Towns is about what it means to be human amidst community.

Quentin (so glad I have another Quentin to associate with the name other than the one from the Magician and the Magician King), is about to graduate from High School.  He is a good student, loved by his two psychologist parents, has a good set of friends and is looking forward to college.  He may not be exciting, but he is reliable and normal.

His next door neighbor Margo is not.  She is popular, the center of attention, but prone to wild pranks and occasionally running away.  Margo and Quentin have been friends from early childhood.  When they were 10 they found a man that had committed suicide in the park.  That single event, while not really all that important, creates ripples that really drive the rest of the story.

A month before the end of high school Margo finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with one of her best friends.  Margo unleashes a string of pranks against her boyfriend, the girl he was sleeping with, and a raft of others that she had grudges against for real or imagined reasons.  She choose Quentin to help her carry out the plans.  After an entire night of pranks, and a bonus of breaking into an amusement park for kicks, they are both tired and happy.  For the first time in years it was just them and they both rediscover the old friend that they had lost in middle school.

The next day Margo disappears.

It is not the first time that Margo has disappeared.  Her parents are done.  They want nothing else to do with her.  They report her missing to the police, but then they change the locks on the house so that even if she comes back, she will not be able to waltz back into their lives.

Quentin again has lost a friend.  Along with his two friends Ben and Radar, Quentin seeks out the clues that Margo has intentionally and unintentionally left behind.

This is a much darker book than An Abundance of Katherines.  There is still humor.  It is still about high school.  But in a book that starts with a suicide and the potential of Margo’s suicide is very present throughout the book.

I do not want to give away too many spoilers.  I understand why this would not be a favorite book.  But at the same time, I appreciate a coming of age novel that is dark. Dark is part of reality.  Margo is not abused.  But her parents are not the best parents in the world.  She is likely depressed.  But as Quentin finds out, Margo’s issues are not new.  She has been creating a false image of herself for years and the weight of her false image of herself is oppressive   No one really knows Margo, not even Margo.

At heart this book is a mystery.  The mystery is whether anyone can really find another person, or even themselves.

Paper Towns by John Green Purchase Links: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobooks

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