I had fully intended to finish this book, Paper Towns, before the end of 2008, but well, I got sidetracked. :) So I ended up finishing it on the first day of 2009, so that makes it my very first book on my new list. A place of honor, I suppose.
I really enjoyed this book by John Green; he's very good at getting inside his characters and not talking down to his audience. I love the humor, mostly because I know a bunch of teens who actually talk exactly that way and do many of the things Green's cast did. What I didn't particularly care for was the ending; after all the angst, mystery, and set up, it came off as a "what a letdown" moment. I won't say more since it would be a spoiler, but I will say that there was way too much philosophizing and not enough closure. But honestly, this is a terrific book, and well worth the effort of getting to the ending. Posted below is my amazon review which gives fuller details and background.
In John Green's young adult novel Paper Towns, Quentin has always known neighbor and fellow senior, Margo Roth Spiegelman; the two even discovered a dead man in the park when they were in sixth grade. But as people do, the two grew apart as they headed for high school, with the vivacious, outspoken Margo becoming the center of the popular crowd while Quentin found friends on the fringes of the band and similar pursuits. They were still cordial but not buddies, but that was okay.
Fast forward to the final stages of senior year, and one warm Florida night when Margo suddenly appears at Quentin's bedroom window, beckoning him to join her on a wild night of adventurous revenge. What can a guy do but agree? So the two spend much of the wee hours traveling to others' houses, wreaking havoc, and finally end at Sea World. Quentin arrives home a changed young man, ready to take on the world, but Margo...well, Margo disappears. Thus the adventure continues as Quentin discovers clues to her whereabouts and becomes obsessed with finding the girl who has stolen his heart.
John Green knows how to get inside his characters and bring their emotions to life, and he sprinkles his story with a great deal of humor. The story is relatively fast-paced, and the uncovering of Margo's clues provides tension as well as insight to the personalities of all those involved. While Quentin remains doggedly committed to finding Margo, his friends are more realistic, providing him with support and stability. My favorite part, though, is the road trip; the idea of five friends on a mission in a mini-van both made me laugh as well as believe that yes, they actually could accomplish their goal. Least favorite part? The actual ending. Without giving away what happens, I will say that achieving the goal of the mini-van buddies was definitely a letdown, a sort of "hmmm...that's it?" moment. Too much philosophizing with no big payoff.
This is an excellent novel, with lots of fun moments and great wordplay. The stunts pulled in Quentin and Margo's ninja night are simply the best, and the masterful way Green lays out the mystery is perfect. In actuality I would have given this novel a strong 4.5 stars for entertainment value alone. Recommended for readers of all ages.