here to see what I'm on about) and John Green is one of my favorite authors.
The cover to the hardcover Paper Towns is interesting in itself (what you see picture left is the paperback cover, which I own). There are actually two covers, one picturing Margo happy, and the other picturing Margo sad. This will be explained later in the review.
So, Paper Towns opens with a prologue about a young Quentin (the main character, known as Q to his friends) and a young Margo (his neighbour) finding a body in the park. The book isn't a murder mystery, as you would expect from that opening. In fact, the body has little to no significance later in the novel except as something Q reflects on. But, what I love about this plot element is how Margo comments, while considering that the man committed suicide, "maybe all the strings inside of him broke." That, in my opinion, is a beautiful way to describe an ugly thing.
Back to the present, Quentin is eighteen and his graduation is just around the corner. One night, seemingly out of nowhere, Margo coerces him to join in her in midnight mayhem. These days, Margo is popular, and Q's a nerd, and so, they aren't friends, per se. But Q has always loved her. The day after this, Margo goes missing.
Q finds from Margo's parents that this isn't exactly uncommon, and they decide not to even try to find her this time. Q decides to follow the tenuous clues she left him: a poster in her window facing his, a Walt Whitman poem, and whatever he recalls from their conversation the night before about living in a 'paper town'. Thanks to a certain Nerdfighter tumblr, I can give you the actual quote:
"Look at all those cul-de-sacs, the streets that turn in on themselves all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people in their paper houses burning the furniture to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking the beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things paper-thin and paper-frail."
In John Green's own words, "Paper Towns is about love and loss and a Walt Whitman poem". He also says that "Paper Towns is about what we do and do not see when we imagine each other".
A recurring idea through the book is how people see each other, thus the hardcover covers. Everyone Margo knew imagined her differently, none wrong or right. She could be interpreted as Happy Margo, by the people who knew her as popular in school. Sad Margo, by people like Q who got a glimpse of how she was behind the facade she wore at school. Though Q originally thinks of Margo as his miracle, he begins to realise that she's just a girl.
Paper Towns is a perfect mix of humor and heartbreak, a winner of the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery, and studied as part of English curriculum in schools. I give it a 5 out of 5.