Having been a Nerdfighter for (what I believe to be) a while, now, I thought I should further establish my faith by delving into more of John Green’s books. I felt that TFiOS had become mainstream, so I’d need to read more in order to not be a common fangirl. After research and blurb-reading, I came to the conclusion that Looking For Alaska and Paper Towns would be the books for me. An Abundance Of Katherines and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (and Let It Snow) don’t seem like my kind of thing, and they aren’t as popular among Nerdfighteria (from what I have gathered).
I recently read LFA. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It actually made me laugh out loud a lot, especially towards the end during the prank scene. In fact, I couldn’t stop laughing, and I realised that never before had a book made me laugh that much. The characters were loveable and I really engaged with the story.
This weekend, I read Paper Towns. This has to be my favourite of John’s books that I have read so far. I also laughed at times in this book because John is great at creating comedy. I want to touch on some things that I did and didn’t like. First, the negatives…
Although the story is completely different to LFA, I felt that some aspects were similar. For example, the spunky female protagonist (who disappears), the male protagonist who lacks confidence but builds on it throughout, the cocky yet hilarious best friend of the male protagonist, the element of jokes and pranks which characters play on each other, sexual reference, the idea of leaving an old life behind and starting afresh… The list could go on. To me, it was just a typical John Green book, which isn’t a bad thing, but it was a bit too predictable/samey.
Next, there were 3 references to cancer. One on the first page, one in page 109, and if I’m not mistaken, one on page 201. Considering John wrote TFiOS, and had connections with Esther Earle, AND he continues to inspire many (including myself) to this day, it surprises me that jokes and lighthearted comments about cancer cropped up here. I know that technically Quentin is narrating, but I’m sure John could have thought of something else.
It may just be me, but I got confused at times because of all the different characters. I had to flip back to check who was dating who and what the situation was between friendship groups etc. Too many emotional girls and drunk Seniors.
On top of this, I found the ending a little disappointing. I’m happy that Q and Margo were reunited, but what happened next? Where did Lacey, Ben and Radar go? How did they all get home? How did Ruthie and her mum react on the phone to Margo? I feel that more time could have been taken to pace the ending; I would have read on for another few pages!
Finally, I don’t know if this is just a mistake on the UK cover, but throughout the book, Q’s surname is Jacobsen, but on the blurb, it is spelled Jacobson. It’s a shame to have such an obvious printing error ruining the cover!
Now, into the positives. At first, I didn’t understand the title, because ‘paper towns’ was mentioned once near the beginning. But then it became a recurring theme, and it made sense. I now think it’s a great title, and there is an element of education in the novel, to explain the idea behind it.
John is excellent at creating characters and making them 3D. He is especially talented at writing females, and making them come alive. Just like Alaska, Margo is sassy and confident and smart. Also, in Paper Towns, Q and Margo’s parents have a purpose. Q’s mum is a psychologist, and this adds interest to the Jacobsen household. The parents also comment on Margo’s parents and allow Q to curse. Margo’s parents are made out to be awful, self centered people who don’t know how to show love and care for Margo. (I just wish Ruthie featured more, as she was a delightful character.)
I found the story gripping and fascinating at the same time. I felt like I was on a fun journey with Q and his friends. I think the road trip was one of my favourite parts. The good thing is that the themes and motifs are carried throughout the novel, and the ideas are expanded too (eg. string, maps, friendship etc). Although LFA was extremely quotable, and this was not, Paper Towns was full of witty narrative and dialogue that flowed well (sorry to use the forbidden phrase).
In conclusion, I would recommend Paper Towns as a first John Green read, if you choose to jump on the teenage girl bandwagon. I probably won’t read it again, as there are other books that I am desperate to return to, but it will sit nicely on my bookshelf between TFiOS and LFA for now.
Questions (if you’ve read this far, congratulations): Which of John Green’s books have you read or are you planning on reading? What do you think of his writing style and storytelling?
DFTBA and happy reading! 🙂