Like many of you, I am a huge Looking For Alaska fan! I could not wait to pick up John Green’s new book, Paper Towns. There are so many things I want to talk about; I will have to number them to keep them straight. Margo Roth Spiegelman, is popular, beautiful and lives next door to Quinten. They were childhood friends and once found a dead guy in the park together. Once the teenage years hit, she largely ignored him until one night she knocks on his window and takes him as her accomplice on a night of delicious revenge.
1. John is so great at creating strong, misunderstood, beautiful female characters. Both Margo and Alaska are not what they seem. Margo is so tormented and searching for meaning in what she views as her meaningless “paper” life.
2. John describes fantastic pranks. As in Alaska, John takes his characters on a journey of humiliation as Margo and Quinten use fish and cameras to get back at those who have done Margo wrong. She says, “we bring the f***ing rain, Q. Not the scattered showers.”
3. His supporting characters are fantasic! I loved Radar the best. He is obsessed with Omnictionary which is best described as Wikipedia. His parents have the world’s second largest collection of black Santas which is a constant embarrassment to him (In the book the largest collector dies, so the parents hone in to buy his loot.) Seriously, they have black Santa wall paper and everything. The house is set up like a museum, very funny!
4. John takes the opportunity to educate while he tells us a story. His books teach us about works of poetry, literature (Looking For Alaska) or mathematical theory (An Abundance of Katherines). In Paper Towns, he helps us better understand Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. We also learn what a paper town actually is. I would tell you, but I don’t want to ruin anyone’s ending.
This is one of my favorite quotes, when Margo says this to describe her town, Orlando, “It’s a paper town. I mean look at it, Q: look at all those cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart.” (p57)
Margo disappears the day after their night of revenge. Q becomes obsessed with finding her. She leaves him clues so he can solve the riddle she has left for him. Why does she go to an abandoned strip mall? What is hidden in the door jam and what is really a paper town?
Some ideas for discussing it with teens:
1. Do you think Margo is brave or a coward for running away?
2. How do you feel about her description of paper towns? Does this resemble your community?
3. Why do you think friendships like Q and Margo end after childhood? Why didn’t they stay close before the night of revenge?
4. Why do you think Margo picked Q for the night of revenge?
5. Discuss Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
6. Q’s mother is happy one of the bullies got into college. When she describes how hard school was for him did it change your perspective?
You will not be disappointed by John Green’s latest story. John, please keep writing! I can’t wait for the next one! This book has Printz Award written all over it!