Book Club Chat: ‘Paper Towns’ by John Green

by Kim on April 6, 2011 · 17 comments

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Last week, my in read life book club met to discuss Paper Towns by John Green. This is, I think, the first young adult book we’ve read as a book club, and I think the change of pace was fun for everyone. There’s something about reading a book about high school that makes you want to trade stories about the person you were back in those dark days, isn’t there?

I love the description of Paper Towns from John Green’s website, so I’m just going to use that instead of trying to sum things up on my own:

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 of the girl he thought he knew.

The only other John Green book I’d read before this one was Looking for Alaska, and I think there are some definite similarities. Both feature quite, nerdy guys and the “manic pixie dream girl” they think they are in love with. In both cases, the dream girl turns out to be different than the nerdy guy expected and the story is about the growing up teenagers face when life changes dramatically.

Unlike some of the other books we’ve read, everyone in the book club really loved this book. I thought it was an excellent read — smart, quirky, actually laugh-out-loud funny, and emotionally gripping without being melodramatic. I loved this book, and would definitely recommend it.

The most interesting part of our discussion was in response to the question of whether Margo and Quentin were fully-realized characters, or if the sidekicks — Quentin’s nerdy friends — were the best parts of the story. One person suggested that, as narrator, Quentin has to be sort of vanilla because that way he becomes a person more readers can relate to. Others said that part of the point of Margo is that she’s mysterious, that the Margo everyone thinks they know is just an idea, and part of the book is trying to figure out who she is.

In any case, Paper Towns was a great read for all of us that I think everyone would recommend. And it was a definite departure from our other recent reads, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood and A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

Our next pick, scheduled for the end of April or beginning of May, is The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. I’ve been meaning to read this one for months now, so I’m glad I finally have the outside motivation I get to it!

Rating: ★★★★☆

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