Quentin "Q" Jacobsen and his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, played together as children, but over time Margo has become an unattainable girl of allure and mystery. Just a few weeks before graduation, the two reconnect when she suddenly appears at Q's window and asks for help with an all-night revenge spree targeting unfaithful friends and bullies throughout their Orlando neighborhood. This adrenaline-filled adventure kicks off Paper Towns, another insightful novel by the Printz award-winning novelist John Green, and refuels Quentin's desire for Margo.
But the next day Margo has vanished. Since the girl has disappeared before, leaving ambiguous clues and turning up in outlandish places, her family has written her off this time, and her high school friends are awaiting a spectacular return with an even more dramatic story of her escapades. Only Quentin fears the worst, that she has taken off to commit suicide, when he finds clues left specifically for him in highlighted passages of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
His desperate search for Margo leads him in and out of abandoned subdivisions, what the girl once called "paper towns." Along the way, he realizes that his search is not just for Margo, but for the "real" Margo, the girl nobody really knew, perhaps not even himself. Helping Q solve the puzzle are Ben, who achieves instant popularity and a date with a possible prom queen despite his often sexist remarks, and Radar, a more grounded classmate with a Wikipedia-like website that cracks some of Margo's clues. Their witty, hilarious banter lightens Quentin's quest, and provides rich fodder for the friends' culminating road-trip investigation.
Like that famous saying, it is Q's journey rather than the destination that matters most. Whether or not he finds Margo and her paper towns, Quentin discovers love and finds that it can be just as elusive and multifaceted and imperfect as Margo. With author John Green at the controls, the ride is always memorable. Copyright 2008 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Staid, ironic Quentin idolizes Margo Roth Spiegelman, the enigmatic girl next door. She enlists him for a night of pranks only to disappear the next morning. Quentin and friends unravel Margo's plans, imbuing their final days of high school with new meaning. The fumbling detectives, each with his or her own idiosyncrasies and strengths, will capture readers' imaginations. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #5
Green's latest ode to suburban disconnect, feminine inscrutability, and the euphoria of seizing the moment opens with a dusk-'til-dawn spree of inventive mischief and ends with a snort-milk-out-your-nose-hilarious road trip. Though their friendship faltered in adolescence, staid, ironic Quentin has idolized Margo Roth Spiegelman, the enigmatic girl next door, forever. She enlists him for a wildly cathartic night of pranking at the end of their senior year only to disappear the next morning, leaving a breadcrumb trail of obscure clues in her wake. These center on the concept of paper towns, a term used to mean both planned subdivisions ("pseudovisions") that never get built and towns invented by mapmakers to protect a copyright. Both exist only on paper, and this thread of metaphor illuminates the perceived emptiness of the teens' small-town-Florida existence as well as Quentin's growing recognition that he's constructed a mythic Margo who doesn't really exist. As Quentin, his two best friends Ben and Radar, and Margo's confused friend Lacey unravel her plans, they grow closer, imbuing their final days of high school with new meaning. Ultimately, the mystery of Margo proves more compelling than Margo herself -- instead it's the four fumbling detectives, each with their own idiosyncrasies and foibles and secret strengths, who will capture readers' imaginations. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2008 September #1
Printz Medal Winner and Honoree Green knows what he does best and delivers once again with this satisfying, crowd-pleasing look at a complex, smart boy and the way he loves. Quentin (Q) has loved Margo Roth Spiegelman since they were kids riding their bikes, but after they discovered the body of a local suicide they never really spoke again. Now it's senior year; Margo is a legend and Q isn't even a band geek (although quirky best friends Ben and Radar are). Then Margo takes Q on a midnight adventure and disappears, leaving convoluted clues for Q. The clues lead to Margo's physical location but also allow Q to see her as a person and not an ideal. Genuine--and genuinely funny--dialogue, a satisfyingly tangled but not unbelievable mystery and delightful secondary characters (Radar's parents collect black Santas)--we've trod this territory before, but who cares when it's this enjoyable? Lighter than Looking for Alaska (2005), deeper than An Abundance of Katherines (2006) and reminiscent of Gregory Galloway's As Simple as Snow (2005)--a winning combination. (Mystery. 13 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2009 January
When Margo appears one evening before high school graduation and asks her life-long neighbor, Quentin, for help, he goes along. He ends up having the best night of his life: doing things he would normally never do. When Margo disappears the next day, our perplexed protagonist is convinced that she has set up an elaborate chain of clues that will lead him to her. He is worried that if he does not find Margo in time, she may kill herself. Desperately, he struggles to unravel her cryptic messages. When he finally cracks the code, he enlists the help of friends and takes off on a road trip that will lead them from Florida to New York. When Quentin locates Margo, he recognizes that he may have over-idolized the girl. That realization helps them to build a fragile relationship based on new realities. John Green is brilliant. Paper Towns further cements his name as one of the best contemporary young adult writers. With minimal cursing, suggestions of sexual activity, and some drinking episodes, this book will make an excellent purchase for older high school students who will definitely be experiencing the same growing pains as Green?s characters. Highly Recommended. Emily Garrett Cassady, Librarian, North Garland High School, Garland, Texas ¬ 2009 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 September #2
Green melds elements from his Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines-- the impossibly sophisticated but unattainable girl, and a life-altering road trip--for another teen-pleasing read. Weeks before graduating from their Orlando-area high school, Quentin Jacobsen's childhood best friend, Margo, reappears in his life, specifically at his window, commanding him to take her on an all-night, score-settling spree. Quentin has loved Margo from not so afar (she lives next door), years after she ditched him for a cooler crowd. Just as suddenly, she disappears again, and the plot's considerable tension derives from Quentin's mission to find out if she's run away or committed suicide. Margo's parents, inured to her extreme behavior, wash their hands, but Quentin thinks she's left him a clue in a highlighted volume of Leaves of Grass. Q's sidekick, Radar, editor of a Wikipedia-like Web site, provides the most intelligent thinking and fuels many hilarious exchanges with Q. The title, which refers to unbuilt subdivisions and "copyright trap" towns that appear on maps but don't exist, unintentionally underscores the novel's weakness: both milquetoast Q and self-absorbed Margo are types, not fully dimensional characters. Readers who can get past that will enjoy the edgy journey and off-road thinking. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)[Page 51]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up-- Quentin Jacobsen, 17, has been in love with his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, for his entire life. A leader at their Central Florida high school, she has carefully cultivated her badass image. Quentin is one of the smart kids. His parents are therapists and he is, above all things, "goddamned well adjusted." He takes a rare risk when Margo appears at his window in the middle of the night. They drive around righting wrongs via her brilliant, elaborate pranks. Then she runs away (again). He slowly uncovers the depth of her unhappiness and the vast differences between the real and imagined Margo. Florida's heat and homogeneity as depicted here are vivid and awful. Green's prose is astounding--from hilarious, hyperintellectual trash talk and shtick, to complex philosophizing, to devastating observation and truths. He nails it--exactly how a thing feels, looks, affects--page after page. The mystery of Margo--her disappearance and her personhood--is fascinating, cleverly constructed, and profoundly moving. Green builds tension through both the twists of the active plot and the gravitas of the subject. He skirts the stock coming-of-age character arc--Quentin's eventual bravery is not the revelation. Instead, the teen thinks deeper and harder--about the beautiful and terrifying ways we can and cannot know those we love. Less-sophisticated readers may get lost in Quentin's copious transcendental ruminations--give Paper Towns to your sharpest teens.--Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library[Page 148]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.