Monday, March 09, 2009

John Green, Paper Towns, 2008.

I stayed up too late a week ago to finish the book; it makes sense that I’d stay up too late tonight, writing a blog entry about it.

It’s much like Green’s other books, in terms of its energy, pacing, and careful reimagining of the bildungsroman. The main character, Quentin, is caught up one night in helping Margo-- the next-door neighbour whom he adores—with pranks and revenge… only to be dismayed by her disappearance the next morning. As high school draws to a close, he follows a trail of clues to find her--and dragging along with him the usual odd assortment of supporting characters (who struggle with their own -issues and who challenge Quentin to do some substantive work to grow up).

The conceit of the book—the concept of a paper town itself—is clever and intriguing, and doesn’t overtake the plot. In some ways, the book is stronger than Green’s other efforts: the plotting is tighter and less contrived, exposition is handled more neatly, and the characters are more plausible as people (I’d argue some in both Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines are better as ideas than as characters).

It’s a fun and funny book, deeply enjoyable, and reveals (as does his earlier work) a truth about Green: he’s a good teacher. He’s the sort of engaging, clever, funny, sweet guy who cares deeply about topics and wants to share them. What impresses me most about Paper Towns is that Green is getting better and better at integrating that truth about himself with his deep desire to tell stories that people want to read (and blog about) late into the night.