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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


John Green’s ‘Paper Towns’ delivers adventure with a side of wisdom


Penguin Books

The manic pixie dream girl: a trope of the unattainable quirky girl coveted by the male protagonist of fictional works, most often in young-adult novel and romantic comedies such as “(500) Days of Summer.” While watching the trailer for the July-premiering “Paper Towns” movie, another John Green book-to-movie adaptation, one may assume this is the same theme present in both the book and the film. After all, the trailer opens with protagonist Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) calling his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevigne) his “miracle.”

“The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle,” Q says. “My miracle was this: Out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.”

But while Green sets up the book with this premise in mind, he spends the rest of the novel disproving this trope — and taking the reader along Q and Margo’s adventures.

For those who may only be familiar with Green through the book or movie version of “The Fault in Our Stars,” or his 2005 “Looking for Alaska,” they may have come to expect at least one thing from his works: tears. Luckily for fans of his work who want to read the author without requiring a box of tissues as a reading companion, “Paper Towns” offers a welcome respite from his more emotional fare.

Simply put, “Paper Towns” is a road-trip novel that includes not one but two important road trips at the heart of the story. The novel begins with Margo inviting Q on a long-winded quest for revenge, employing Q as the getaway driver of his Chrysler minivan. Their quest takes them around Central Florida, stopping at stereotypical road-trip locations such as Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven, and venturing to more uncommon spots, such as when they sneak into the SunTrust building and SeaWorld after hours.

After having an exhaustive, exhilarating night of revels, Q expects things to change with Margo, who has gone from being just his neighbor to his partner-in-crime overnight. But when he shows up to school the morning after, the mysterious Margo has become even more mysterious as she disappears without a trace.

It’s all fun and games as Q and his friends try to piece together Margo’s missing person case, until the trail of bread crumbs Margo has left seems to lead to nowhere. Every piece Q seems to put together reveals more about the girl he only knew from afar. In a cross-country hunt, Q is once again in the minivan chasing after Margo’s hijinks.

But when the Margo mystery resolves itself as less than miraculous, Q’s imagined notions of her inner workings turn out to be just that — imaginary.

“Paper Towns” explores more than the romantic, idealized versions of people who we only pretend to know. As Q puts it, “The idea is not only wrong but dangerous. What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”

Meeting Margo may not have been Q’s miracle, but thankfully for readers of “Paper Towns,” their relationship creates an effervescent, thought-provoking story that goes far beyond the boy-meets-manic-pixie-dream-girl dynamic.


Follow Mia Moran on Twitter.

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