Monday, November 30, 2009

A new shade of Green in "Paper Towns"

Radar is the last to get off the phone, and when he finally does, he says, "I'd like to make an announcement. My parents are very annoyed that I'm missing graduation. My girlfriend is also annoyed, because we were scheduled to do something very special in about eight hours. I don't want to get into details about it, but this had better be one fun road trip."
- Paper Towns

And it certainly is. As I read John Green's Paper Towns I realized how thematically connected it was to his earlier novel Looking for Alaska. Both stories deal with teenage affection (and all of its complexities), both have a strong female character (in this case Margo), and both do not follow conventional paths in reaching their conclusions (this one has an elaborate clue-hunt to find Margo). While Looking for Alaska dealt with a select group of individuals, and their experiences at school, Paper Towns expands on similar levels while operating far more elaborately in terms of setting and action. We have contrasting characters, for instance: Quentin (introverted geek), Margo (ninja-clad, extroverted beauty), Radar (his dialogue with Quentin in the novel was a highlight for me) and Ben (Quentin's best friend). Like Looking for Alaska, Green gives us some of the most memorable Young Adult Literature characters yet, instilling them with humor, intellect, emotion, and vibrancy.

Green's strength is evident in his ability to communicate teenage relationships to the reader, mainly through the use of comical dialogue and well-defined characters. The basic story involves our narrator Quentin Jacobsen (a Holden Caufield type, there is even a Dr.Holden in the novel) and his adoration of his female neighbour Margo (a mysterious childhood friend). The plot follows their collaboration on a night of pranks, a backstory that involves a grim discovery from their chilhood, Margo eventually vanishing, and an extremely engrossing road trip section that is fantastically executed and by far the highlight of the novel for me.

I would highly recommend this to anyone that enjoyed Looking for Alaska and would even go as far as to say this is a superior novel in many ways. Green has matured in his writing here, and I loved how varied his style was (such as writing instant messages on the page, and the diary style of the road trip). He also shows his love of great literature by inserting references to Whitman's Leaves of Grass and Melville's Moby Dick. This is a perfect novel to teach to a teenage audience as it stays within the boundaries of decency, while also dealing with its themes in a very accessible and humorous way.

Blogged by Stuart Millar


Anne said...

The more I see/hear about Green, the more I love him. I am so going to read this book and all the rest of his work. Your review intrigues me. Thanks for the video too...I love to hear him talk!

Amy said...

I agree with Anne; Green just sounds awesome. If this book is anything like LFA, I know I will love it! I really enjoyed how in LFA Green brings to light various serious issues yet he does it through his character development and in such a way that readers can relate and empathize with them. I also really like how he injects humor into situations allowing the context to be serious and funny at the same time. I think this helps attract various types of readers. I'm really looking forward to reading this book and hope he continues writing more!

Danielle Bartman said...

I love how Green can take a book and make it enjoyable for both genders, which by reading other blogs it seems that the books lean toward one gender over the other and connect better with one over the other. In LFA and this one it seems as though both genders can enjoy this book and be able to discuss serious topics that Green addresses. I am going to read this book, because it sounds so interesting and I enjoyed LFA.