Review Blog

Jan 26 2009

Paper towns by John Green

cover image

HarperCollins, 2008.
(Age 13+) This deliciously funny story about the relationship between two people, Quentin, Q to his friends, an 18 year old unspectacular nerd and his next door neighbour, the beautiful and most unpredictable Margo Roth Spiegelman, will have readers rolling with laughter. The opening chapter details one night when Margo, distraught by the fact that her boyfriend is sleeping with another, takes revenge. And what revenge. She wakes Q in the middle of the night, enlists his help with his mother's car, and takes him to a supermarket where he buys a strange assortment of disparate goods, then spends the night with her, exacting revenge on the people who have been a part of the conspiracy to keep her boyfriend's liaison secret. During the course of the night, Q sometimes detects a wistfulness which is unlike his strong, confident friend, and he is aware that her strings may be coming unraveled.

When over the next few days, Margo fails to turn up at school or home, her parents, tired of her antics, change the locks on their door. Q is distraught, and following what he believes to be clues left behind by Margo, becomes closer to her than he ever imagined. He drives large distances across Florida, using Whitman's Song of myself as a guide, tracking down the places she has stayed.

But it is graduation night that he finally assembles the clues, and works out where she is. Together, he and his three friends drive to New York State to find her, and her paper town. What could have been a sentimental journey becomes one of revealing themselves to their friends, and Q realising that no one really knows another. Although he has lived next door to Margo all his life, he doesn't really know her or what motivates her. A funny, sometimes desperate look at friendship and relationships, this novel will be eagerly read by middle secondary and senior school readers, and impel them to look more closely at those around them.
Fran Knight

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