I’ve just finished reading Paper Towns by John Green, and it was fantastic. As with the other bits of John Green’s writing which I’ve read, this book focuses on a fairly common young adult literature theme, how to grow up and navigate that transition in to adulthood. What sets this novel apart is the the deft and skill with which John Green writes.
As it would seem with others pieces of his work, Green focuses on a strong female lead, quirky yet cool, who aims to lead the main male protagonist astray, a character which he has described in interviews as the, ‘magical pixie girl’. The male protagonist in this case, Quentin, then discovers more about himself than he previously knew, helped by the ‘magical pixie girl’ to traverse in to adulthood.
As a central theme the novel addresses the idea of how we imagine the other and the dangers which come from mis- imagining someone. As Quentin says himself, ‘ The fundamental mistake I had always made–and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make–was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.’
This I feel is the most important point this book could make, the dangers that come from not being able to truly know another honestly. I remember feeling utterly devastated and cheated by the world when I found out that when you look at some thing you are not actually seeing what is there, you are seeing what your brain perceives to be there- a picture make up of both the reflected light bouncing off of the objects surface and your brains best interpretation of that data, filling in the blanks to make an image it understands. This upset me, I was frustrated at the universe, it was making me live in a state where I would never truly know what James or my parents or you would look like. I felt betrayed by my own brain, yet this condition is universal. None of us can ever really know what the other looks like, on the surface or inside of their soul. Yet we make the mistake of believing that we can, as the novel says, ‘It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently mis-imagined.’
I liked this book, because although it was an easy read (I finished it in an afternoon) it made me think. And as with the other pieces of John Green’s writing which I’ve read it made me adjust the way in which I view things. It made me question the way in which I perceive others. And that is a good thing. An excellent thing in fact. I like it when books challenge me to be better. To be more compassionate. To be more open. To see things and people in a different light.
I would defiantly recommend this book, I will certainly be reading it again.