When they are nine years old, neighbours Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman find a dead body in a park. That’s the day Quentin falls in love with Margo, but over the next decade he could barely even call her a friend. Then, a few weeks before the end of high school, she suddenly turns up at his window in the middle of the night, and conscripts him in a campaign of epic revenge against those who have wronged them both.
Quentin has never been more in love with her. The next day at school he expects everything to be different. And they are. Margo has completely disappeared. Except perhaps not as completely as first appears. As Margo fails to reappear even after several days, Quentin begins to believe she has left behind secret messages just for him, even if his friends think he’s seeing what he wants to see. They’re wrong, of course. The only questions are whether the messages are clues to where she has gone, whether she actually wants to be found, and indeed whether she will even still be alive when Quentin catches up with her.
With The Fault in Our Stars, John Green has recently broken through that point where even people who don’t know anything about him have heard of his name. He’s the crown prince of YA, filling the void left by Stephen Chbosky after he never wrote a follow-up to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The only other Green novel I have read is Looking for Alaska, which centred around a similarly feisty girl who also only appears in half the story. Unlike Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns doesn’t suffer from its most interesting character’s disappearance from the plot, possibly because she’s still there at the heart of it, even if not physically. Both books are more about the teenage boy than the teenage girl he is obsessed with, anyway, but Paper Towns does it better.
This is a novel about a journey, in more ways than one. It’s about life and death, Walt Whitman and Wikipedia, and all the little things that either become less important or more important as you grow up.