About the Book

Book Protagonist: Quentin Jacobsen
Publication Date: 2008
Genre: Romance, Teen and Young Adult

Themes and Analysis

Paper Towns

By John Green

'Paper Towns' by John Green is a well-loved novel. It uses examples of relatable themes, symbols, and interesting literary devices.

Like most books, there are themes contained throughout the narrative of ‘Paper Towns‘. The novel cleverly uses extended metaphors throughout to explore its central themes. Green also makes use of numerous symbols and types of figurative language.

Paper Towns Themes and Analysis

Paper Towns Themes

Paper Towns

The idea of a “Paper Town” is used throughout the novel. A paper town is a town that was created by mapmakers so that their work couldn’t be stolen. What often happened is that people would discover these fictional towns on the maps and then create actual towns in those locations. This is used s a metaphor in various ways throughout the book. With the very nature of paper being that it can be shaped and changed etc. Margo uses the idea of paper towns to suggest that the people that live in these towns are far too easily shaped by their peers. She points to herself as an example as she has created a persona for herself.

Being your own person and not living up to expectations

It is fair to say that Margo, certainly in the earlier parts of the novel, lives up to the wild reputation that she has created for herself, but we see as the story progresses that she doesn’t like not being true to herself and that is part of why she runs away. To escape those expectations.

Road trips and coming of age

John Green delves into the well-trodden ground here. There are a couple of instances of road trips in the novel. One of them is the primary focus for the final section of the book. As is tradition, the act of the journey is almost a metaphor for the characters’ journey as they grow together. We see this in both Margo, who grows away from wanting to be the center of attention, and also with Q, who becomes less risk aversive and can reject his big obsession.

Paper Towns: Key Moments

The story of ‘Paper Towns’ is a quick-paced and exciting book, but some key sections help move the plot along and drive home the main themes of the book. Here they are:

Margo and Quentin discover the dead body. In many ways, this highlights the differences between the two characters and can be seen as part of the reason they drift apart as they grow older.

Margo and Q – go on their revenge mission. This takes up the majority of the first section of the book. What it does is give us a chance to see Margo’s character and Q’s reaction to that persona.

Discovering Margo is missing. This really sets off the second part of the book as Q and his pals search for clues.

Ben asks out Lacey. There aren’t many subplots in this quick-paced novel but one of them is the hugely entertaining relationship dynamic between this pair.

They discover where they think Margo is going to be. This is what prompts them to take part in the road trip.

They find Margo, and it turns out she didn’t want them to. The clues were to indicate she was okay, so they didn’t worry about him.

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

‘Paper Towns’ is written in the first person from a teenager’s point of view. Throughout the novel, Green uses incredibly relatable language. It’s easy to read and meant to appeal to readers of similar ages. There are examples of colloquialisms and Island. Green also uses numerous metaphors, many of which come from quotes in ‘Paper Towns’ that made their way into the feature film. One of the most important metaphors is of Orlando as a “paper town,” a town that’s flimsy and with no real strength.

Paper Towns Symbols


Maps are one of the most important symbols in ‘Paper Towns’. They are seen throughout the novel as a way of taking control of a world that sometimes feels as though it’s spiraling. Maps make sense of that which feels chaotic. Margo uses them to plan her escape from the beginning of the book. They remind those looking at them that anything is possible.


Paper, like maps, is an important symbol. It’s connected to the title and the image of “paper towns.” Paper is thin and frail, it, as described on page fifty-eight, is a symbol for the fake, “paper-thin” towns and people that make up Orlando.

Lee-James Bovey
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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