BACK TO BACK JOHN GREEN Paper Towns – John Green

PaperTowns2009_6AThe YA novel is written from the perspective of Quentin Jacobsen who has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. One night she climbs into his life dressed like a ninja and they set out for an all-night campaign for revenge. The next day Quentin arrives at school but there is no Margo. It would seem that she left clues for him to find, and to ultimately find her.

I read Paper Towns after reading The Fault in Our Stars and I have to be honest I had some trouble connecting with Quentin at the beginning of the novel. Quentin and Margo’s campaign for revenge was interesting but left me wondering whether there was a point to all the craziness. The novel takes a more serious tone after Margo disappears which is when I really started to enjoy Paper Towns.

The first clue that Margo left for Quentin is the poem Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Quentin only reads the poem in sections (the parts that Margo highlighted) in the hope of finding a clue as to where Margo is. Quentin keeps referring back to the Walt Whitman poem as the book progresses. He later realised that he had to read the poem in its entirety to fully understand it. I found it to be such a clever metaphor for understanding people. You have to get the whole picture before deciding what that person is like and even then your interpretation of the person (or the poem) could be different to that of someone else. He had to get the whole picture of who Margo is in order to understand her and thus had to read the whole poem.

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 (Image by Philippe Put)

Paper Towns also explains the idea of understanding how and why certain people act the way they do and to realise that they are unlikely to change. In one chapter Quentin describes one of his best friends Ben as an asshole. His other friend Radar tells Quentin:

You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves.

– John Green, Paper Towns.

We have to let people be who they are. I don’t think it means that we should not expect the best of people but rather we should know them well enough to know which things matter and which things don’t.

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” 
– John GreenPaper Towns

Quentin falls in love with the idea of Margo Roth Spiegelman. He has this idea of what Margo is like but he soon finds out that the reality is much different. It is false to believe more of a person that what they really are. It creates these high expectations that a person can’t ever live up to.

SPOILER ALERT

Okay maybe this isn’t such a spoiler since the book is called Paper Towns but Q eventually finds Margo in a paper town called Agloe, New York. The fictional town of Agloe, New York was designed as a copyright trap. I didn’t know what a paper town was when I started the novel so I found the concept very interesting. It would seem that not only can people not be who they seem to be but whole towns can seem to be real when they do not exist. I could keep going about all the symbolism and metaphors in the book but it might be best to read it from the author himself… check out http://johngreenbooks.com/paper-towns/ for more on this awesome YA novel.

I found Paper Towns to be truly fascinating, tremendously entertaining and full of quotable quotes. I would definitely recommend it.

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The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

200px-the_fault_in_our_starsThe story is told from the point of view of 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster, as she battles cancer. A tumour-shrinking medical miracle has bought Hazel a few years, but she has never been anything but terminal. While Hazel attends a church support group for cancer survivors, she meets Augustus Waters. Augustus has lost his leg due to cancer and now wears a prosthetic. This is the story of Hazel and Gus. Okay? Okay.

You can’t really say that you “enjoyed” this novel by John Green. It awakens too many emotions as you connect with the characters in the story. Most of us know someone who has or had cancer. The Fault in Our Stars, however, tells it like it is. Green doesn’t just paint a picture of suffering and sadness but also one of humour and sarcasm. He portrays the teenagers in the book as teenagers even if they are battling a dreaded (or terminal) disease. I especially liked the banter between Gus and his blind friend Isaac. Isaac’s eyes had been removed due to eye cancer.

“How are the eyes?”

“Oh, excellent,” he said.“I mean, they’re not in my head is the only problem.”  – John Green, The Fault in Our Stars.

SPOILER ALERT

Hazel’s favourite book is called An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. This fictional novel created by John Green is about a girl with cancer. An Imperial Affliction ends mid-sentence which would suggest that the girl died while writing her story. Throughout The Fault in Our Stars I was concerned that Green might end the novel in the same way but it didn’t end mid-sentence. Green created this whole other fictional novel to portray how the writer has a responsibility to the reader to finish the story. The uncertainty of how An Imperial Affliction ends seems to echo the uncertainty that Hazel has about her own life. She worries about what will happen to the people she loves when she dies. And even though we know that one day Hazel’s story will also finish mid-sentence there is closure at the end of TFIOS.

Hazel and Gus bond over their love for the book An Imperial Affliction and their desire to find out what happens to the characters in the book after it ends so abruptly. Hazel and Gus’s love story is epic.

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

“But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” – John Green, The Fault in Our Stars.

Their love story is innocent and real. They see each other while being sick and fall in love while knowing that they might not have that much time to spend together.

TFIOS is honest, funny and incredibly moving. If you haven’t read it yet, then do so. I would suggest reading the book before seeing the movie (as I would with most adaptations). The movie is brilliant but the book is better.

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