Friday, January 9, 2009

Book Review: Paper Towns, by John Green

The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us... ...My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.

The story begins a few weeks before graduation. High school senior Quentin Jacobsen (Q) has been in unrequited love since childhood with carefree and storied next door neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman. When she is betrayed by her circle of friends, Margo enlists Q on an all-night, meticulously planned revenge trip. Then she disappears. It is up to Q and his friends to follow obscure clues left for him, and to try to find out what happened to her. In the process, they learn there is more to Margo Roth Spiegelman (and to themselves) than anyone ever thought.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Paper Towns is a fast-paced coming-of-age story. It's part love story, part mystery novel, and part young adult novel. You can use this book to fuel discussion with your teen students on who they are, and who they can become. Q is a guy who loves routine, is loathe to break rules, and is content to play it safe. But his heart pines for Margo Roth Spiegelman, who is exactly his opposite. Part of him wants to embrace her adventurousness, and part of him is afraid to push himself to extremes, as Margo does herself - for reasons no one is entirely sure of. The book can spark conversations about relationships, knowing oneself, pushing one's limits in order to grow. What are your students' limits? How far would they go to help a friend? What path do they want to travel into adulthood? And is there only one path? Or several? 

So many opportunities for discussion, and best of all, it is a book your teen readers will not want to put down. Full of a range of emotions, this book will have them laughing, crying, and everything in between. The author writes with such convincing voice, they can't help but be pulled in.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Your teen will not be able to resist Paper Towns. Though it is narrated by a boy, it explores equally the lives of both the boys and the girls in the story. They are seniors, about to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, and they're trying to find their way, yet still be true to themselves and to their friends. It has a little bit of everything: love, mystery, adventure, intrigue, some rebelliousness, lots of soul-searching, and a bit of humor sprinkled throughout. The characters come to learn something about each other, and about themselves. 

For the Teens:
Paper Towns is a book you won't be able to put down. By-the-book, routine-loving Q has always loved adventurous, carefree next-door neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman. But she doesn't return that love. Then one night she appears at his window, and convinces him to take his parents' van and come with her on an all-night revenge-fest to get back at the friends who betrayed her. The next morning, she is gone. At first, no one is concerned, since her past exploits are the stuff of legend, and she's always come back. But with only weeks to go before graduation, Q begins to worry as the days pile up and she still doesn't show. Then he discovers clues she left for him - some intentional, some not - and he enlists his friends to help him figure them out. Where is she? Why did she go? Do they find her? Alive? Better grab your copy, and get reading.

For Everyone Else:
Though Paper Towns is a teen novel, adults will find themselves drawn into this coming-of-age story as well. It is at times touching, at times heart-wrenching, and at times laugh-out-loud funny. But throughout, it is completely authentic, right down to the teenage boy's preoccupation with body parts and occasional crude humor and language. It is a book you will not want to put down until you've finished it.

Wrapping Up:
Paper Towns appeals to teens as well as adults. Fast-paced, mysterious, touching, and funny, it is a book you don't want to miss.

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Pages: 352
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher and Date: Dutton Juvenile, October 16, 2008
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $17.99
ISBN-10: 0525478183
ISBN-13: 978-0525478188

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