Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Narrator: Dan John Miller
Length of Audio: 8 hours, 3 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life — dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge — he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues — and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.”
Thoughts: Take one part mystery, add one part coming-of-age story, mix in memorable characters, profound statements about life, and sprinkle in a few interesting facts. If done poorly, one can be left with a tangled mess of a novel. If done well, one gets the profound pleasure of reading Paper Towns.
There are two aspects of the novel that make Paper Towns such a joy to read. The most important of these is the characters. Q, Radar, Ben, and Margo are typical teens with typical worries. What prevents them from becoming a stereotypical teenage character are their interactions. The dialogue between all the characters are quite often hilarious, and yet they cover the gamut of issues from growing up, parents, relationships, and finding oneself. By parts pensive, by others just plain goofy, it is Q’s relationship with his friends that move the story along and give it its charm.
The other aspect of the novel that is truly enjoyable is the speculation and positing by Margo and Quentin. Margo’s “paper girl” speech is simply beautiful in its pathos. The windows versus mirrors motif is similarly profound. Can we ever know someone else truly and fully or are we too busy looking at mirror images of ourselves to see the real person sitting across from us? Between the Whitman poem, Margo’s and Quentin’s questioning, there is plenty of questions over which a reader can mull for a long time.
The narrator, Dan John Miller, required some adjustment time. While he was a great voice for Quentin, his voice does not necessarily fit the other characters. It is something which eventually works itself out after a few minutes of listening. Mr. Green’s story and dialogue are what truly save this audio from being a disaster, as his dialogue is laugh-out-loud-worthy in spite of an average narrator.
Margo’s unknown fate, and the mysterious clues she leaves for Quentin make for an intense mystery, while allowing Quentin to discover what it means to be a friend. For those who have read Mr. Green’s Looking for Alaska, which is amazing, I prefer Paper Towns. I find it more down-to-earth with characters who are more realistic and ordinary. For those who have not yet had the pleasure, Paper Towns is simply wonderful.