Paper Towns was a fun, fast paced story. John Green has some really interesting ways of putting words together, making for some really good laughs and had plenty of teenage angst, for those of you who thrive on such feelings of oppression and hard-done-by-ness. However, I also found myself thinking, “that doesn’t seem like something that character would say,” and “well, that was just weird,” more than I would would have liked to.
Paper Towns is told from the perspective of an 18 year old high school senior called Quentin, or Q. He grows up next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman, and as they age they drift apart from the friendship they once shared. Unexpectedly, Margo recruits Quentin to join her for an all night escapade that makes Q realize how much he misses her. Shortly thereafter, Margo disappears, and so Quentin enlists his two friends, Ben and Radar, to help him and the search is on.
I found myself just reading along, and John Green would drop in an absolute gem, such as in the situation where Q had bleached off his enemy’s eyebrow while he slept. The guy cautiously confronts Quentin and says, “What are you assholes lookin’ at?” “Nothin’,” said Radar, “we are certainly not lookin’ at your eyebrows.” I got some funny looks on the train over that one.
When Q was relaying the story of the all night adventure to Ben and Radar, the guys were so excited they asked for a report on his experience with Margo’s breasts using only the words “pink, round, firmness, succulent, supple, and pillowy.” To that I was thinking, ‘awesome, teenage guys at their finest…’ But then, “’personally,’ Ben said, ‘I think at least one of the words should be, bwwwwwpth… the sound my mouth makes when I am giving a honey bunny the patented Ben Starling speedboat.’” Priceless, I know. Everyone can picture that right?
I also thought there were some really clever lines in this book that helped build the persona of the characters. Quentin mentions how he “expertly angled my raisin bran to accommodate for the g-forces. I’d done this before.” Or, Ben jokes, “I look like a demented carbonated fountain,” when Q teases a girl about Ben’s talent of snorting soda up his nose and shooting it out his mouth. Quentin tells us he looks “into the rear-view mirror, and see Radar, wearing his graduation gown, looking over into Lacey’s purse,…You got any boxers in there?” I felt like these really made me like the characters more. “Ben drunk, Lacey drunk, Radar drunk. Nobody drive. Home by six. Promised mom. Booo sleepy Quentin. Yay designated driver. Yesssss!” did not make me like Ben more necessarily, but was totally believable from a character perspective, and made me laugh out loud.
Some quips and phrases annoyed me though. For starters, there was way too much “honey bunny,” going on. Really? Do guys constantly refer to girls as something so grandiosely pimpish? I understand referring to “chicks,” or something equally as generic, but “honey bunny” was just too much. Then there was the little conversation that included, “I wish my cheeks had penises,” and “I saw your mom kiss you on the cheek this morning,” in the same sentence. Funny, but kind of really horrible. There were also a few really bad similes, such as “Peeing is like a good book in that it is very very hard to stop once you start,” and his “tongue is like sunscreen”, she said, “it’s good for your health, and should be applied liberally.”
Overall, there were plenty of funny moments mixed in with the weird language and the fast pace. Quentin was melodramatic enough for everyone, but I could see myself in his shoes, becoming obsessed with a mission, and being upset or annoyed when people didn’t care as much as I did, or flaked out on the help they had offered to me.
I leave you with an adorable quote from the opening pages of Paper Towns:
I found a dead guy. Little adorable nine year old me and my even littler and more adorable playdate, found a guy with blood pouring out of his mouth, and that blood was on her little adorable sneakers as we biked home.
Yup, totally adorable.