"This would be the first time in my life that so many things would never happen again." - Paper Towns
I am glad it's time for Friday Favorites, because I just finished an amazing young adult novel that's everything I want my own novels to be. It's funny, wise, adventure-packed and filled with fleshed-out, likable and very realistically human characters. Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, John Green's Paper Towns was an accidental find. I stumbled upon it, thought it sounded interesting and discovered treasure as if I'd followed a map (or clues, like the book's protagonist). While the characters are fast-talking teens with smart mouths, their observations on life, friendship and the future (among other things) are devastatingly shrewd.
In a (really roomy) nutshell, Paper Towns tells the story of Quentin Jacobsen - a bit of a geek with his future planned out like a map ahead of him - and his obsession with a charismatic girl named Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo is the kind of girl that rumors fly around about - things like: she was a temporary circus member or she got in backstage at a concert just by sheer cunning. Quentin and Margo were childhood friends because their parents knew each other and the two shared a traumatic childhood experience (I will refrain from spoilers). Years later, they have different cliques and lives and don't talk as much. However, Quentin - known to his friends as Q - admires her from a distance and, we can infer from early conversations with friends, talks and speculates about her often. One night, near the end of senior year, Margo climbs into Q's window and talks him into driving her around for a night of antics that include getting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and breaking into amusement parks. The next day, she disappears. Running away is something Margo is known for, but this time she's eighteen and her parents decide not to look for her again. Q can't seem to help but get wrapped up in the mystery of her disappearance, though, especially when he starts finding clues to her whereabouts that seem directed at him.
That's the general plot of the book. But there are so many moments scattered throughout - of hilarity, of suspense, of wisdom - that make this YA novel defy age or genre. When a road trip ensues, you can feel the freedom of the parent-free excursion. And when Q and his friends are just talking and waxing thoughtful about Margo and her reasons for leaving, the dialogue is so true, so intense and so beautiful that you almost forget you're not reading Wallace Stegner or Raymond Carver. Toss in the references to poets (Walt Whitman and T.S. Eliot to name a couple) and poetry and, well, you had me at page one.
At the book's close, I felt like crying or dancing like a mad man in the rain - either one would have been appropriate.
Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at http://risktoblossom.