Title: Paper Towns.
Author: John Green
Genre: Literature, fiction, teen fiction.
Publication Date: October 16th, 2008.
Summary: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer him and his friends get, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew...
My rating: 5.5/10
My review: Despite the fact that the book had a fair share of memorable quotes, I found it horrible. And not only because a lot of those quotes have been said before, by the very greats, and then loosely paraphrased by Green. I would admit that the author has a decent writing skill for YA, but it was the plot and the implications of it that really killed the book for me. The main character is obsessively in love, and always has been, with the girl that lives next door, although he doesn't seem to have had any interaction whatsoever with her for something like a decade. She's popular, he's a dork. One night, she climbs into his window and informs him that she is going to use him for his car to do a whole load of questionable, illegal things to their classmates because she has been jilted by her boyfriend. He complies without a thought, somehow drawing the conclusion that there is some kind of special connection between them, because she selects him for this mission. She disappears the next day (presumed run away from home) and the rest of the book, the main character spends obsessively trying to find her, based on "clues" she may or may not have left personally for him. While obsessed with his new mission, he completely checks out of his friendships (and repeatedly questions their sincerity because his friends are not thrilled to drop their entire lives unquestioningly and let his obsession take over their lives, too), misses his prom, and misses his graduation. I had to admit, I was half hoping and half intrigued by the "mystery" of Margo, which was why I was so supremely disappointed when the whole "mystery" turned out to be simply the cliché of the beautiful, popular Margo having successfully faked her outward appearance. She is, in fact, "misunderstood" and emo, none of her friends really know her, she has a dark depressive streak, bleugh. Her "view of life" could be summarized in the fact that she feels trapped and wishes to travel, but that simple concept is unskillfully woven into some kind of incredibly complex personal philosophy, with the obvious intent of deep wisdom and giving Margo a lot more substance than she actually even has a potential to have. It becomes pretty evident in the end that the lesson that should be derived from this book is not something the author intends to deliver - that single-minded obsession over strangers is harmful and co-dependent and usually leads to poor decisions and regrets. The intent is to romanticize the "dork" stereotype, in the same way Twilight tried to relate to the "plain, awkward" girls. Unfortunately, just like Twilight, supremely unhealthy, disturbing behaviour is labelled as the epitome of romance and never disproved to be so. The only thing that genuinely comforts me about this book is that young men, those who stand to actually be harmed and misinformed by this book, are not its target audience, and will unlikely ever read it. As it stands, this book has insured that I'll not pick up a John Green book again.
♥ I stopped waving. My head was level with hers as we stared at each other from opposite sides of the glass. I don't remember how it ended - if I went to bed or she did. In my memory, it doesn't end. We just stay there, looking at each other, forever.
♥ Margo always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that maybe she loved mysteries so much that she became one.
♥ if I am ever told that I have one day to live, I will head straight for the hallowed halls of Winter Park High School, where a day has been known to last a thousand years.
♥ "It amazes me that you can find all that shit even remotely interesting."
"College: getting in or not getting in. Trouble: getting in or not getting in. School: getting A's or getting D's. Career: having or not having. House: big or small, owning or renting. Money: having or not having. It's all so boring.
♥ "Did you know that for pretty much the entire history of the human species, the average life span was less than thirty years? You could count on ten years or so of real adulthood, right? There was no planning for retirement. There was no planning for a career. There was no planning. No time for planning. No time for a future. But then the life spans started getting longer, and people started having more and more future, and so they spent more time thinking about it. About the future. And now life has become the future. Every moment of your life is lived for the future - you go to high school so you can go to college so you can get a good job so you can get a nice house so you can afford to send your kids to college so they can get a good job so they can get a nice house so they can afford to send their kids to college."
♥ "That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people would want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste."
♥ "When you say nasty things about people, you should never say the true ones, because you can't fully and honestly take those back, you know?"
♥ You can't divorce Margo the person from Margo the body. You can't see one without seeing the other. You looked at Margo's eyes and you saw both their blueness and their Margo-ness. In the end, you could not say that Margo Roth Spiegelman was fat, or that she was skinny, any more than you can say that the Eiffel Tower is or is not lonely. Margo's beauty was a kind of sealed vessel of perfection - uncracked and uncrackable.
♥ "It's more impressive," I said out loud. "From a distance, I mean. You can't see the weak on things, you know? You can't see the rust or the weeds or the paint cracking. You see the place as someone once imagined it."
"Everything's uglier up close," she said.
..."Here's what's not beautiful about it: from here, you can't see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You see how fake it is. it's not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It's a paper town. I mean look at it, Q: look at all those cul-se-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking 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. All the people, too."
♥ "Yeah," I said, thinking that the easiest way to solve a mystery is to decode that there is no mystery to solve.
♥ So what he did was he took a pencil and one of those steel compass things, and he started drawing circles onto a piece of paper. All the circles exactly two inches in diameter. And he would draw the circles until the entire piece of paper was completely black, and then he would get another piece of paper and draw more circles, and he did this every day, all day, and didn't pay attention in school and drew circles all over all of his tests and shit, and my mom said that this kid's problem was that he had created a routine to cope with his loss, only the routine became destructive. So anyway, then my mom made him cry about his dad or whatever and the kid stropped drawing circles and presumably lived happily ever after. But I think about the circles kid sometimes, because I can sort of understand him. I always liked routine. I suppose I never found boredom very boring. I doubted I could explain it to someone like Margo, but drawing circles through life struck me as a kind of reasonable insanity.
♥ Standing before this building, I learn something about fear. I learn that it is not the idle fantasies of someone who maybe wants something important to happen to him, even if the important thing is horrible. It is not the disgust of seeing a dead stranger, and not the breathlessness of hearing a shotgun pumped outside of Becca Arrington's house. This cannot be addressed by breathing exercises. This fear bears no analogy to any fear I knew before. This is the basest of all possible emotions, the feeling that was with us before we existed, before this building existed, before the earth existed. This is the fear that made fish crawl out onto dry land and evolve lungs, the fear that teaches us to run, the fear that makes us bury our dead.
♥ The gray paint peels off the wall in odd and beautiful patterns, each cracked polygon of paint a snowflake of decay.
♥ These are the things I cannot imagine, and I realize that I cannot imagine them because I didn't know Margo. I knew how she smelled, and I knew how she acted in front of me, and I knew how she acted in front of others, and I knew that she liked Mountain Dew and adventure and dramatic gestures, and I knew that she was funny and smart and just generally more than the rest of us. But I didn't know what brought her here, or what kept her here, or what made her leave. I didn't know why she owned thousands of records but never told anyone she even liked music. I didn't know what she did at night, with the shades down, with the door locked, in the sealed privacy of her room.
And maybe this was what I needed to do above all. I needed to discover what Margo was like when she wasn't being Margo.
♥ "He has all kinds of problems - just like anyone. I know it's impossible for you to see peers this way, but when you're older, you start to see them - the bad kids and the good kids and all kids - as people. They're just people, who deserve to be cared for. Varying degrees of sick, varying degrees of neurotic, varying degrees of self-actualized."
♥ "The longer I do my job," he said, "the more I realize that humans lack good mirrors. It's so hard for anyone to show us how we look, and so hard for us to show anyone how we feel."
"That is really lovely," my mom said. I liked that they liked each other. "But isn't it also that on some fundamental level we find it difficulty to understand that other people are human beings in the same way that we are? We idealize them as gods or dismiss them as animals."
"True. Consciousness makes for poor windows, too."
♥ Margot Roth Spiegelman was a person, too. And I had never quite thought of her that way, not really; it was a failure of all my previous imaginings. All along - not only since she left, but for a decade before - I had been imagining her without listening, without knowing that she made as poor a window as I did. And so I could not imagine her as a person who could feel fear, who could feel isolated in a roomful of people, who could be shy about her record collection because it was too personal to share. Someone who might read travel books to escape having to live in the town that so many people escape to. Someone who - because no one thought she was a person - had no one to really talk to.
And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made - and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make - was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was no a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.
♥ I couldn't help but think about school and everything else ending. I liked standing just outside the couches and watching them - it was a kind of sad I didn't mind, and so I just listened, letting all the happiness and the sadness of this ending swirl around in me, each sharpening the other. For the longest time, it felt kind of like my chest was cracking open, but not precisely in an unpleasant way.
♥ It is so hard to leave - until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.
♥ Because Margo knows the secret of leaving, the secret I have only just now learned: leaving feels good and pure only when you leave something important, something that mattered to you. Pulling life out by the roots. But you can't do that until your life has grown roots.
♥ "I hope I get pulled over," he says. "I'd like to see how the cop responds to a black man wearing a Confederate T-shirt over a black dress."
♥ "People are different when you can smell them and see them up close, you know?"
"I know that," I say. I know how long, and how badly, I wrongly imagined her.
"I'm just saying that it was easy for me to like Lacey before. It's easy to like someone from a distance. But when she stopped being this amazing unattainable thing or whatever, she started being, like, just a regular girl with a weird relationship with food and frequent crankiness who's kinda bossy - then I had to basically start liking a whole different person."
♥ But there she is, and I am watching her through the Plexiglass, and she looks like Margo Roth Spiegelman, this girl I have known since I was two - this girl who was an idea that I loved.
And it is only now, when she closes her notebook and places it inside a backpack next to her and then stands up and walks toward us, that I realize that the idea is not only wrong but dangerous. What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.
♥ "But then again, if you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all." Imagining isn't perfect. You can't get all the way inside someone else. I could never have imagined Margo's anger at being found, or the story she was writing over. But imagining being someone else, or the world being something else, is the only way in. It is the machine that kills fascists.
♥ "It would have been nice to tell him that, whatever it was, that it didn't have to the end of the world."
"Yeah, although in the end something kills you."
I shrug. "Yeah, I know. I'm not saying that everything is survivable. Just that everything except the last thing is."
♥ "When I've thought about him dying - which admittedly isn't that much - I always thought of it like you said, that all the strings inside him broke. But there are a thousand ways to look at it: maybe the strings break, or maybe our ships sink, or maybe we're grass - our roots so interdependent that no one is dead as long as someone is still alive. We don't suffer from a shortage of metaphors, is what I mean. But you have to be careful which metaphor you choose, because it matters. If you choose the strings, then you're imagining a world in which you can become irreparably broken. If you choose the grass, you're saying that we are all infinitely interconnected, that we can use these root systems not only to understand one another but to become one another. The metaphors have implications.
♥ "Maybe it's more like you said before, all of us being cracked open. Like, each of us starts out as a watertight vessel. And these things happen - these people leave us, or don't love us, or don't get us, or we don't get them, and we lose and fail and hurt one another. And the vessel starts to crack open in places. And I mean, yeah, once the vessel cracks open, the end becomes inevitable. Once it starts to rain inside the Osprey, it will never be remodeled. But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it's only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out."