Book Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Category: fiction: young adult
Paper Towns was released in October 2008. I devoured it. And a few days later we got in my car once again and drove to the Seattle Public Library (an extremely beautiful building) for the Paper Towns Book Tour. John Green read from his new book, Hank Green sang some of his songs, and there were more performances than I can remember.
We wore nerd shirts, we bought and industrial package of those fill-in-the-blank nametags and filled them out, and handed them out to people. We were the nametag girls. We also had the opportunity to talk to John and Hank. We also got to do something a bit different than a usual book signing. We got to sign a copy of Paper Towns for the author – John Green. Anywhere we wanted to.
I chose to underline a paragraph from partway through the novel;
“I couldn’t help but think about school and everything else ending…it was a kind of sad I didn’t mind, and so I just listened, letting all the happiness and the sadness of this ending swirl around in me, each sharpening the other. For the Longest time, it felt kind of like my chest was cracking open, but not precisely in an unpleasant way.” (215)
And I thanked him for these words. These words that put a description to the feelings I was having at that moment in time. Those words that he was able to write directly to me, despite never having met me before. Good fiction, rather great fiction does this. Helps you to recognize something inside yourself that you were unable to put words to.
While Looking for Alaska continues to be my favourite John Green Novel, Paper Towns is my second favourite. What isn’t to love? There’s a breakneck paced road trip, a mystery, a puzzle of maps and poems and pranks. A manic pixie dream girl who turns out to be what we all least expected – including the protagonist- a real character, with flaws and faults and depth. It was terrifying in places, and made me cry in others. It made me laugh as well.
And when I was reading it again this time, in late December, it made me think about what it means to leave a place – as I was packing to move myself as I was reading it. Packing to leave the only place I’ve ever really called home, and incessantly worrying about what that meant to me. Margo Roth Speigelman taught me about reading. While Q reminded me about the important things we leave behind.
“And as paralyzing and upsetting as all the never agains were, the final leaving felt perfect. Pure. the most distilled possible form of liberation…It is so hard to leave – until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” (228-229)
If you haven’t yet picked up a novel by John Green, please do so. He is truly one of my favourite authors, and you are missing out if you’ve never read one of his stories.