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Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns is a must read YA contemporary read. If only to remember the feeling of endless possibilities.

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

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paper towns john green

Title & Author: Paper Towns by John Green

Genre: Young Adult Fiction – Contemporary, Coming of Age

Release Date: October 16, 2008

Series: Standalone

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

How I Got the Book: Book Club Pick


“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 Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.”

Self-Discovery & Characters With Three Names

That John Green. He definitely knows how to write a book that will tear emotion out of you.

Paper Towns is definitely more upbeat and happy than The Fault in Our Stars, however, I don’t think Paper Towns was executed as well.

Let’s not go there, yet, though. Paper Towns was a GREAT read, and I’d like to talk it up first (it’s only polite).

Things I loved:

1. The unforgettable details – Q and his friends Radar and Ben are just priceless characters. They each have such distinctive quirks that I felt they could have materialized out of the book as whole people. They seemed so real to me. There is something PRICELESS about Radar’s parents that I will let you discover for yourself in the book. HILARIOUS.

Ben is like every girl-obsessed guy in high school and he both repulsed and intrigued me. And, Radar’s obsession with the Omnictionary (the book’s version of Wikipedia) is endearing and a little worrying.

2. The friendships – Old and friendships are explored in Paper Towns – especially the idea of what holds them together and makes them fall away. There were so many times while reading this book that I thought about my own friendships and examined what worked about the long-lasting ones (from elementary school) and the fresh ones. I loved seeing a fight from a guy’s perspective, too. It seemed so easy to get over…

3. The tangible coming of age feel – Oh yes. This sickening nostalgia that hits when thinking about a younger more idealistic version of yourself. (I’m not that old, but seriously life kicks you in the butt sometimes). Green always weaves depth and insight into his books that can be so raw. The majority of the book revolves around Margo Roth Speigelman in all her three-named glory.

She’s what people want her to be, which is nothing like she truly is. That idea is explored a lot in the book and generated some awesome conversation in my book club.

Plus, Q takes a good long look at Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself poem. The poem sort of reads him instead of the other way around, and I loved watching him grow through the process.

Book Wasted

Ok, now to the very few things that I didn’t like.

The first half of the story is all about figuring out the clues Margo Roth Speigelman left behind. This goes on forever, in my opinion. I just kept waiting for that story to get picked up and gain momentum. I wished it had picked up the pace sooner.

This is totally on me, but I couldn’t help comparing Paper Towns to The Fault in Our Stars. TFioS WRECKED ME!! I was absolutely, completely engrossed in the story and felt all the things about it. With Paper Towns, the writing is strong and the characters are top notch, but I just didn’t get the same reaction.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an extremely good story, but not as refined and whole as TFioS.


So, you guys know I live in Orlando, right?! This book is set in O-Town, and I smiled to myself (creepy, I know) every time I read a little detail about the city that I knew personally. Oh, I-4, your wretchedness will forever be documented in this novel.


Paper Towns is a feel-good, nostalgia-inducing read. The warmth of friendship and self-discovery seeps out of the pages. John Green is definitely the master of the young adult contemporary scene. Paper Towns tops my list of amazing books read in 2013.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • Lisa Schensted

    Yeah, having read TFiOS first will definitely slant you towards his other writing, but they are all still so wonderful in their own way! I love the uniqueness of his characters and how they are 100x as self aware as I was in high school.

    I really, really, really like the road trip elements of this one! However, I would say my favorite John Green bestie is in An Abundance of Katherines. You know, when you’re ready for your next JG book. 🙂

    • Yes, I totally agree! The road trip was so fun (WE HAVE 5 MINUTES, GO GO GO!!). I will definitely put the Katherines as my next JG book. I defer to you, oh JG mega fan. 🙂