Thursday, April 23, 2009

READ | Paper Towns by John Green

Just needed to write something about Paper Towns, by John Green. It's not going to be a very in-depth discussion, I'm afraid. My mind just isn't ready for long blog-posts these days. But I thought I better start getting into the habit of writing about what I've read, and of course - actually reading more so that I can write about them.

Quentin Jacobsen is an ordinary high-school teenager who has been in love with the girl next door - Margo Roth Spiegelman - since he was a child. According to the social hierachy of high school, Quentin belongs to the nerd side of the fence, while Margo is on the cool side. While Margo was kind enough to keep the local school bully off Quentin and his friends, Margo and Quentin just don't mix in the same circle. That is until one fateful night, Margo sneaked into Quentin's room dressed like a ninja, and pulls Quentin along for a night of adventure - and revenge on Margo's cheating boyfriend.

After that night, Quentin felt maybe there was a connection between Margo and himself. Except, Margo suddenly went missing. The police and Margo's parents didn't seem to have a clue where to find her. Margo's parents in fact, don't seem all that eager to go looking for her. Then, from a poster of Bob Dylan in Margo's room, a note Margo left hidden on Quentin's bedroom door - and most of all, an annotated copy of Leaves of Grass, Quentin decided Margo had left clues to where she could be found.

Paper Towns is about Quentin's search for Margo Roth Speigelman. On a more metaphorial level, it is about Quentin's search for the real Margo Roth Spiegelman - that elusive search for the authentic person, instead of an idea of a person. It explores that universal desire to be known for who we really are, rather than merely existing as an idea, a stereotype, for the other person.

In particular, I found myself ready to identify with Margo, especially with her record collection. (I don't have records, but I have plenty of CDs) The idea that our record collection can be too personal to be shared - because it represents such an important part of ourselves - I get that.

Margo Roth Spiegelman was a person, too. And I had never quite thought of her that way, not really; it was a failure of all my previous imaginings. All along--not only since she left, but for a decade before--I had been imagining her without listening, without knowing that she made as poor a window as I did. And so I could not imagine her as a person who could feel fear, who could feel isolated in a roomful of people, who could be shy about her record collection because it was too personal to share. Someone who might read travel books to escape having to live in the town that so many people escape to. Someone who--because no one thought she was a person--had no one to really talk to.

And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made--and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make--was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.

I liked Paper Towns. It was charming, written with good humour. It isn't heavy-handed in its messages, and the ending particularly - was left wide-open to possibilities.

3 comments:

Chris said...

Glad you enjoyed it D-O :) I really liked it too and I totally agree with you on music and people's collections. You really can tell so much about a person by their music collection.

theduckthief said...

If you're a fan of John Green, he has a vlog with his brother Hank on YouTube.

Nymeth said...

I definitely get that too. I'm really glad you enjoyed it.