Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Paper Towns

I didn't have a particular expectation as I got deeper and deeper into John Green's Paper Towns, but somehow I still found myself surprised at the end.  It's the kind of story that moves so slowly that you can practically hear it dragging its feet along the ground.  Yet all that time you're chafing for the plot to get a move on already, something else is forming underneath you.  By the time you reach the conclusion, you tear the paper-thin skin off and finally see the rich meat of the matter.  That, my friends, is what it's like to read Paper Towns.

To be frank, I didn't love Paper Towns as much as I loved Green's The Fault in Our Stars, but it had a theme that struck a particular chord with me.  All semester I've been thinking about subjectivity and how it's seemingly impossible to actually become another person or enter that person's perspective.  That tension becomes very present in the relationship between the novel's main character Quentin Jacobsen (AKA "Q") and Margo Roth Spiegelman, the object of his love from afar since childhood.  When Margo disappears and Q tries to piece together the clues she left behind, Q realizes how little he knew her, how little her friends knew her, and how little any of us know each other.  The "mirrors" metaphor I found especially illustrative of this point; I would explain it to you, but I think you'd have to read the book to understand it (hint, hint).

We also meet Q's friends Ben and Radar, both of whom are amusing in unique ways.  I believe I laughed the most and the hardest during scenes with Radar.  Whenever Q isn't off on his own to solve the Margo mystery, they are there to help him out and to banter the way friends do.  Y'all know how much I love me some witty banter, although there was not a whole lot in this book.  The characters overall were quirky and complex and lovable, which helped me through the story's slowness of pace.  Q's journey may not have been especially romantic or exciting or adventurous, but it did uncover the limitations of our own perspective (it's fitting that the book is in first-person) as we try to find out the book's most basic question: Who is Margo Roth Spiegelman?

Perhaps Paper Towns isn't your kind of book, but if you have time to think on an important question, then think on this: Is it really, truly possible to "walk in another person's shoes"?  Can you inhabit another person's consciousness and understand where they're coming from?  I'd be interested to see your answers in the comments below.

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