Paper Towns Review

‘Paper Towns,’ to some, is considered John Green’s best work. It tells the story of follows a group of high school students as they follow clues, tracking down their friend Margo.

The quick-witted conversations and flawless dialogue in Paper Towns move the plot along nicely, plus, the characters are hard not to love.

Plot

The plot doesn’t really break any new ground. You could argue that it is a road trip story. Margo goes missing and her friends solve “clues” to find her and then it transpires she doesn’t want to be found. It serves its function and helps drive the story along (pun intended) In novels like this you could make the argument that secondary characters could be fleshed out and interweaving subplots lead to a better narrative. However, focusing mainly on the primary character allows the book to march along at a good pace and the narrative voice is strong enough to command a reader’s attention anyway.

Characterization

I know there have been those that are critical of the characters in Paper Towns and claim that they are walking tropes. I don’t think this is accurate. I think Ben and Radar could have been fleshed out more, but that would have affected the pace of the book. I feel the character of Margo is deeply compelling and Quentin’s narration is engaging and helps a reader see the world through his eyes.

Dialogue

It is through the dialogue that the book really shines. The quote section of this article could have been 10 times the length that it was. The dialogue is funny, at times touching, and always helps to move the story along. For me, this is a strength of the novel and what makes it so readable. This is a hallmark of John Green, and it is through these skills that he is able to take what might be “stock characters”, like “the nerd”, or “the cool girl” and give these characters depth and make them feel like real people.

Writing Techniques

I sometimes think it is unfair to judge a first-person narrative on its use of certain techniques. After all how many times in the course of a day do you use new and original metaphors? You don’t say “I am going to the mysterious and brick-laden newspaper distribution agent”, you say, “I’m going to the shop.” As previously highlighted the dialogue is tight and when the narrator does give us some descriptive moments they are strong.

Should I Read Paper Towns?

I guess that is the question, isn’t it? Firstly, I am an English teacher I would recommend always reading! However, I get that if (like me) you are not a speedster when it comes to reading that it can be quite the investment of time. So perhaps a more pertinent question is, should I invest my time into reading Paper Towns and the answer is a resounding yes. One of Green’s strengths as a writer is his ability to create compelling characters that a reader can’t help but care about.

You could argue that there are shades of Pip and Estella in the dynamic between Margo and Q – albeit on a far less extreme level. The way she seems to string Q on helps create sympathy for the character. Throughout the novel we see Q struggle with his own approach to life and although the ending is not what one might expect it still feels like a completed journey and isn’t that the point of a road trip story?

Paper Towns: Full of Green's trademark profundity

Book Title: Paper Towns

Book Author: John Green

Publisher Logo:

  • Story
  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Writing style
  • Dialogue
  • Conclusion
  • Lasting effect on reader
3.9

Paper Towns Review

Paper Towns is arguably Green’s second most popular novel and with good reason. The quick-witted conversations and flawless dialogue move the plot along nicely as you cannot help but root for the loveable nerd, Q. 

Pros

  • Pithy, witty dialogue
  • Likeable main characters
  • Ridiculously quotable

Cons

  • Some side characters are a bit one dimensional
  • Slightly unbelievable hijinks from Margo and Q
About Lee-James Bovey
Lee-James, a.k.a. LJ, has been a Book Analysis team member since it was first created. During the day, he's an English Teacher. During the night, he provides in-depth analysis and summary of books.
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