Paper Towns by John Green

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Paper Towns by John Green

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Flawed but fabulous leftfield story about identity and connections. Witty, sharply-observed, quotable and cerebral, it's one for the clever, introspective teen, who will love it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 302 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408806592

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17-year-old Quentin Jacobsen has been in love with Margo Roth Spiegelmen ever since he can remember. It's an unrequited love though - neighbours and childhood friends they may be, but their respective places in the High School pecking order are miles apart. Margo is one of the beautiful ones. She's cool, clever and a trendsetter. Q languishes in the middle ranks with his band member mates, Radar, who's an obsessive editor of Omnictionary (read Wikipedia), and Ben, who wants a girlfriend more than anything, but lacks the status to get one.

And then, one night, Margo knocks at Q's window. Let down by a cheating boyfriend, she takes Q on a night of revenge, as they play pranks on everyone that let her down. Why she chose Q to be her partner is a mystery, but he hopes it will lead to something more... until she fails to turn up for school the next day. Margo has run away before, several times, and her parents have simply had enough. But Q thinks she's left him clues in a marked-up volume of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and he's determined to find her, no matter what the cost...

It's all about identity really. The book's title, paper towns, refers an American term for suburbs planned but not built. It can also mean a copyright trap on a map - as Quentin finds out. It's about how well we know ourselves, and to what extent we can ever truly know another person. It's about how the different facets of ourselves sometimes pull apart, and sometimes come together, and how our interactions with others can shape us. I don't believe any of us are paper people and the lovely thing about this book is the way in which its characters come to see this. Green writes wonderfully: his observation is pitch perfect, fabulous one-liners fill paragraph after paragraph, and he captures the teen psyche with unerring skill.

It's not a perfect book, though. There are some plot-friendly but character-unlikely hook ups, and here I'm particularly thinking of Lacey falling for Ben - I don't think so! The middle section drags on a bit and the madcap drive across country at the end drags on even more, making it more "oh, hurry UPPPP" than actually madcap. Quentin does a bit too much navel-gazing, even for my liking. But it's so smart and sharp and funny and kind and wise, you can forgive Green these faults without a second thought. Even so, I think it's probably a book for the clever, introspective teen, who will absolutely love it.

And look! Omnictionary even has a real, live, website. How cool is that?!

My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

If they like the look of Paper Towns, they might also enjoy Henry Tumour by Anthony McGowan, a Bookbag favourite. They could also try King Dork by Frank Portman and Submarine by Joe Dunthorne.

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Buy Paper Towns by John Green at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Paper Towns by John Green at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Paper Towns by John Green at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Paper Towns by John Green at


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