Monday, February 5, 2018

Paper Towns: Perhaps too honest

Last year, I read John Greene’s Looking For Alaska on a whim and found it a strong critique of idealizing someone. It basically was an argument against the idea that the wild and crazy girl who you have a crush on is somehow going to be the key to making your life better. Since it’s a book aimed at teenagers, that’s an important lesson.

When reading about Looking for Alaska after reading it, I read that his later book Paper Towns addressed the same topic but was more cheerful. So I decided to read it.

And I liked it a whole lot less, probably because John Greene did his job too well.

The book is broken down into three parts: boy has an adventure with a girl; girl disappears and boy investigates; boy goes looking for girl. 

Here was why I didn’t enjoy the book: John Greene depicts teenagers as a self-centered, hypocritical  jerks who have a lot of growing up to do. Which I think is a really accurate depiction. But, unlike Looking for Alaska, I wasn’t given a good reason to sympathize with the narrator, Q. In fact, I didn’t really have a particularly good reason to sympathize with Margo, the girl who he was chasing.

To be fair, I enjoyed the last act much more than the rest of the book. Without giving important spoilers away, it was much more dynamic. However, the character growth of the main character felt like the growth a teenager thinks they’re having, as opposed to serious maturing. Also to be fair, that seems like a realistic depiction of a teenager.

Amusingly enough, I found the beta couple, Ben and Lacey both more interesting and sympathetic. They have an actual relationship and, while much of it takes place off camera, they have learned a lot about each others’ flaws and how to deal with them by the end.

Paper Towns may have succeeded too well for me to enjoy it. That said, The Fault Is In Our Stars is on my list of books to read relatively soon.

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