The young-adult genre has been riddled with uninspiring novels that lack any kind of creativity or originality. Shuffling through the mundane “Gossip Girl” spin-offs and “Twilight” rip-offs has made finding a substantive novel as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. John Green is one of the few young-adult authors who has the ability to really tell a story and captivate the reader. Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for his highly acclaimed novel “Looking for Alaska,” Green tells a fantastic story of love, obsession and mystery in his latest novel, “Paper Towns.”
The opening scene of the book begins with two young children, Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman, riding their bikes through a suburb of Florida. As they approach a nearby park, they are confronted by the gruesome scene of a dead man under a tree who has taken his own life. This sets the overall mysterious tone of the novel and builds the intense connection that runs between Quentin and Margo.
The novel then jumps to the two characters’ senior year of high school. Quentin has an unrequited love for Margo, whom he prefers to call by her full name. Quentin is astounded when she appears at his window in the middle of the night. Margo takes him on one of her epic adventures, adventures that include breaking into buildings, other acts of vandalism and taking revenge against the people who have wronged them both.
When Margo mysteriously vanishes the next day, the rest of the book is devoted to Quentin’s quest to solve the mystery that surrounds her. The reader is introduced to the friends and enemies of both characters. While many of the normal high school stereotypes are prevalent, such as the jock, the bully and the band geeks, Green writes them in a quirky and believable manner. Ben Starling is Quentin’s best friend, yet Quentin spends a good deal of the novel contemplating all of Ben’s faults, including his over-obsession with anything female and many of the ridiculous comments he makes. Other characters include Radar, another friend of Quentin and the computer genius behind Omnictionary, a Wikipedia of sorts.
With the help of his friends and the clues Margo leaves in a book of poetry by Walt Whitman, Quentin spends the majority of his senior year obsessing over the girl he has been in love with since grade school.
By the novel’s halfway point, the pace begins to slow down as Quentin tries to work out puzzles or clues surrounding Margo’s disappearance. This may leave the reader looking for the fast-paced action of the past few chapters, but the novel quickly picks back up as more clues are found.
Green has a knack for creating characters’ depth by highlighting flaws and strengths. His realistic portrayals paint the setting of a tragically shallow yet beautiful Florida suburb where Margo seems to be the center of everyone’s attention. The novel does share a few similarities to Green’s first book, “Looking for Alaska,” both containing the role of a mysterious female lead. But Green is able to write Margo in a way that prevents the character from becoming stale.
“Paper Towns” is sure to be a hit with older teens but can definitely be enjoyed by people of all ages. Readers will find themselves laughing out loud during much of the book, as the novel’s twists and turns will keep them attentive to the end.