I don’t know why I waited to review this, but I felt like I had to read Looking for Alaska first. The biggest negative in the reviews of Paper Towns I read was that it was so much like Looking for Alaska. I see how the pranks that Margo came up with are in similar vein with the pranks in LFA. And Margo isn’t present for most of the book, and Alaska is gone for almost half of LFA. Both girls are daring and quirky and beautiful. Both male protagonists are good students, relatively good kids and struck with a fierce loyalty for the object of their affections. So, yeah, there are similarities.
These are not the same stories.
Paper Towns is my first John Green book. My students adore this writer and I went searching for the videos he and his brother Hank made a couple months ago. And I liked John Green just by his literature crash courses and Vlogbrothers entries. He’s funny, engaging and smart. I had nothing other than his personality through video to base that on. In some ways, I felt good that I just liked him as a person as much as I could glean from youtube. Liking an author due to assuming you know them because of their books can be completely misleading.
He’s a darn good writer. As I read the beginning of Paper Towns, I’d pause and read sentences and sections aloud to my friends. Whether they cared or not. So many turns of phrase and happenings made me laugh and smile. He balances description and prose with snappy dialogue and wonderful characters. I loved Quentin (Q) and his friends: Radar and Ben. They were funny, loyal, real and just plain entertaining. I liked Margo Roth Spiegelman too. I would never have her boldness to do the things she does, but I admired them, just like Q. I’d would probably have been swayed to join her on her night of revenge as well even though I’m a chronic good girl.
The clues, the truth behind what paper towns are exactly, the road trip, the saying goodbye to high school: I LOVED it all. I guess I relate to Q. Probably not as smart (Duke? Wow), but I also used to love the band kids at my school even though I wasn’t in band (they were the only good thing about pep rallies). I never had a true deep fascination for one classmate, but there were definitely guys I was bewitched by. Guys that I knew, for me, if they’d ever liked me back, we couldn’t actually date. They were partially tragic and potentially unsave-able. That’s probably why I liked this so much. This book wasn’t about the romance or Margo so much. It was about growing up, amazing friends, and realizing that not everything is a happy ending.
I’m not finished with Looking for Alaska yet. But I’ve gotten to the ‘After’ part and although I want to know how it all ends, I’m not as connected with these kids as I was in Paper Towns. The reason is simple: I’m not like the kids at Culver Creek Boarding School. I was never intensely rebellious. I would never have been Pudge. Which is okay. I was not, am not edgy but some people are. And those will like LFA over PT. And kudos to John Green who can write and paint both worlds with a realism I’m in awe of.
SOTM: Marchin On by OneRepublic
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