Thursday, 20 August 2015

Paper Towns by John Green: I Just Don't Get It!

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Buy this book: Amazon (UK) / Amazon (US) / Book Depository 
Who is the real Margo?  Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificent, adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she opens his bedroom window late one night and summons him to join her on an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.  After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to find that Margo has not. Always an enigma, she now becomes a mystery and Q soon learns that there are clues to be following in his search for Margo. 

This is my second John Green book and I wish I could say that I absolutely loved it. But I didn't. I read The Fault in Our Stars and I really enjoyed that one, although it wasn't an amazing 5/5 read for me. I hear so much praise and love for John Green, so I really wanted to try more from him to see if those books blew me away and impressed me as much as they seemed to impress everyone else. I didn't find that to be the case with Paper Towns, in fact, I ended up enjoying it less than The Fault in Our Stars.

The story follows Q, a boy who is in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman and has been since they were children. They spend one crazy night together, and the next day Margo disappears. She leaves little clues behind that Q follows in order to track her down. The story IS Margo Roth Spiegelman, which I wouldn't mind if I found her to be an interesting and likeable character. She isn't. Q is actually obsessed with her and in all honesty...



She is a frustrating and annoying character. Q builds her up to Manic Pixie Dream Girl status, and whilst the book seems to be trying to break apart that notion, it sticks to her. She's perfect to everyone. If I had to hear Q idolise that girl one more time I swear I was going to lose my mind. And whilst she goes on and on about how she isn't that girl, she isn't who they have made her up to be, she is still frustrating, annoying and completely unlikeable. She uses Q, knowing that he won't say no to her. She runs away, but leaves clues for Q, but doesn't want him to find her... apparently. And she doesn't consider anybody else's feelings or emotions. I hated her. I hated Q for liking her. And I wanted to throttle Q for being unable to shut up about her. And then I wanted to throttle him again for thinking that everyone else needed to be as obsessed by the Margo 'mystery' as he was,

Me every time Q starts talking about Margo: 


My other reason that I struggled so much with this book is the fact I just couldn't seem to connect to the characters or the story. None of it felt real. Yes, I know this is a work of fiction, but the author should bring his world and characters to life. This doesn't, it feels like the life is taken out of them more and more as the book goes on. The characters never felt real to me. It's hard for them to feel real when they all sound like motivational posters. When all the characters are speaking in deep and meaningful metaphors, it starts to feel like nothing they are saying is actually deep and meaningful. It's ridiculous how every single character is always spewing these deep, meaningful, thought-provoking, quotable sentences. It's not realistic. People don't always talk like that. And not every single person you come into contact with will. Q talks like it, Margo does, their friends do, Q's parents and not to mention the police officer who loves balloon metaphors. I think The Incredibles sums this up best:


This is how I felt about John Green's characters. When they're all so extra special and incredible, none of them actually feel it. They don't feel real, they never feel real to me. They feel like they are how John Green wishes people were, but don't read like real people to me and that stops me from enjoying the book.

The saving grace for me is when they went on the road trip. It was the first time that Q stops constantly obsessing over Margo and talking about her non-stop. He actually spends time with his friends and they act like actual teenagers for once. I found the road trip section absolutely hilarious and thoroughly enjoyed it, it saved this book for me.



I don't hate the book, but I didn't really enjoy it either. It's a very quick read and you can breeze through it in no time, I just wish I'd loved it as much as everyone else seems to. Is there anybody else who struggles with John Green's characters? Sometimes it just feels real pretentious and I'm not sure why. I just wish his characters felt more real to me. Would you recommend trying Looking for Alaska? 


62 comments:

  1. I loved Looking for Alaska. I don't have the same issue with Green's characters as you do though, and I think that his highly intelligent metaphor-spewing teenagers kind of span all of his books, so you might not like it. Alaska is kind of a manic pixie dream girl. I had a love-hate relationship with her. And the main character definitely idolizes her. But I haven't read Paper Towns so I can't make a really good comparison!

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    1. Yeah, I have a feeling the characters will all kind of be the same in all the books. But I think I will still try Looking for Alaska, as I already own the book. But I probably won't be keeping my copies of Paper Towns, as I really wasn't the biggest fan of that one.

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  2. I didn't enjoy Paper Towns either. Q was stalker creepy the entire book. I really didn't connect to characters and the ending was just... Boring.

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    1. Yeah, that's exactly how I felt about it. It was just a big disappointment for me, not what I was expecting at all.

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  3. I haven't read this one but Q doesn't sound awesome to me, I can tell you that. The only JG I've read is Looking for Alaska, which I thought was genuinely unique and clever. Especially since no one was writing like him at the time. I have TFIOS and The Abundance of Katherines but they are sitting on the bookshelf unread and unloved right now.

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    1. I already own Looking for Alaska, so I think I will probably give that a go and hope that it impresses me more than Paper Towns did. FINGERS CROSSED!!!

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  4. I'm not drawn to the type of books John Green writes, so I ended up only reading TFIOS as a recommendation and none of the others. I'm sorry to hear you didn't like this one so much, although I do remember reading the blurb a very long time ago and it didn't stick out to me either.
    I've read books containing characters who are idolised, and I always end up frustrated because instead of convincing the reader WHY they're so great, the author just keeps insisting (through the characters) that they ARE great, drives me crazy! So yeah, I feel you on that one. =/ Thanks for the review!

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    1. I really wish I had been more impressed by this book, but I was just so disappointed and wasn't a fan of the main characters. The side characters were okay, but it didn't save the book for me.

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  5. I haven't read this one yet, but I really did love TFIOS and Looking for Alaska. I have heard a lot of people say that this book and The Abundance of Katherines aren't as good as the other 2. I love how you said when everybody's special, nobody is. I could definitely see how that could be an issue. It's like watching Dawson's Creek and EVERYBODY talks like they're philosophy professors or something... even the kid that's flunking out of school. I love Dawson's, but no.

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    1. Haha exactly, that's a perfect example!!! I will probably still read Looking for Alaska, especially since it's one that I already own. Hopefully I enjoy that one more than I enjoyed Paper Towns.

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  6. I liked this one, and I liked Looking For Alaska (though a bit less than I liked Paper Towns), but I DO agree with your assessment. I totally agree that I was ready to smack Q, but I loved his friends a lot. Margo.. well yeah, I didn't get the obsession either! But since the reason you didn't like this one is because the characters are too.. "John Green-y" (can that be a word? It should be!), then you probably won't like LFA either, it is more of the same, character-wise. Sorry this wasn't a win for you, but great review!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

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    1. I'm curious about Looking for Alaska. I already own it, so I will probably end up reading it at some point. I feel the hype ruins the book because my expectations were ridiculously high going in. Maybe if my expectations had been lower then I would have enjoyed this more.

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  7. Such a shame you couldn't like this one! I have read two of his books myself, and I think TFIOS is my favourite of the two. I didn't read this one but I read Looking for Alaska and my thoughts were much the same there too. I think the characters were a bit too pretentious and unrealistic, and I couldn't imagine any teenager talking like that. I don't know if I am going to try another one of his books, but I did want to read this one before I saw the movie.

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    1. I already own Looking for Alaska, so I am sure it is one I will get to at some point, but I am not in a rush to read it. My expectations for his books are just too high after all the hype, maybe they just won't ever live up to it for me.

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  8. Such a shame you didn't enjoy it! I gave this 5 stars and Looking For Alaska 3, it was an enjoyable story but a bit average...

    TheDonkeyInvasion - A Bookish Blog!

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    1. Hmmm, I'm curious about Looking for Alaska. I already own it, so I am sure I will read it someday but am not in a hurry to do it.

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  9. Yeah, I have to admit, I just feel the pull to read anymore John Green books, just pretty meh on him, you know? I won't be reading this book, or anymore of his books, and I won't be watching any other films either, I want something new from him, and this sounds samey..

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    1. I'm probably going to see the movie because I am curious about it, but I don't have high expectations for it now.

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  10. Oh no! I saw a trailer for the movie and loved it so I decided I needed to read this soon before watching it (which I have a thing about having to read the books before being able to see the movies) and now, I don't know if I want to! Darn it. Maybe I will try it and see how it goes?
    Sorry you didn't like this one more.

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    1. I think I still want to see a movie, I hope it works better on screen than it did on the page. We shall see!

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  11. I've never really been a fan of John Green, despite wanting to be... It just doesn't work for me.

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    1. Yeah, I hope I read a book by him that really blows me away. But it definitely wasn't this one!

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  12. Yes, yes, and more yes! Sometimes I feel very alone in that I do not worship at the altar of John Green. LOL I'm glad so many people enjoy his writing and take so much from his books. But, it's a case of one thing does not appeal to all. And for me, one of those things is John Green's writing. Just not a fan. I read TFiOS and liked it. Didn't love it, but I liked it. Then I read Looking for Alaska and thought... meh. I finally gave him one more shot with Paper Towns. And truly disliked it. It was then that I gave up and realized that he just wasn't my cup of tea. My overall feeling about his characters is: who ARE these people? They in no represent any teenagers I know or have ever known. Me and my friends did not sit around discussing the quandary of existentialism nor do any teenagers I know now. All his characters come across as pretentious 40-year-old's in 16 year old bodies. And you summed it well when you said they're all so extra special and incredible, none of them actually feel it.

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

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    1. Exactly! It is so nice to find someone else who feels the same as me. I have Looking for Alaska, so it is tempting to try that one but I feel like I am not going to enjoy that one either. I just wish his characters felt more realistic and like they actually represented real teenagers.

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  13. Great great great review! I totally feel the same. Although I never finished the book. I do love TFiOS. But I have not been able to like or finish any of his other books. They are all exactly the same. Characters are the same with different names and slightly different settings. He is obsessed with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Ugh!
    You can try Looking for Alaska but I think you will find it's Paper Towns under a different title. Are you going to see the film? I do not plan on it.
    Happy reading!
    Brittany @ This is the Story of My(Reading) Life

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    1. I KNOW!!! I don't know why he loves the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I have heard there seems to be one in almost all of his books. I am nervous about Looking for Alaska, as I already own it I might try it one day. But it's not high on my list of things to do >.<

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  14. It's okay you're not the only one that didn't enjoy this book as much as some other people have raved about it. I felt Quentin was such a whiny character and when Margo went missing, he went into crazy mode and shut out his friends, which doesn't make sense to me at all since they went all the way with him to Agloe!!! Ahh the craziness :D

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

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    1. I know. It's nice to get your thoughts out, I have found that so many others felt the same way as I did. I really wish I had enjoyed it, but it just didn't work for me.

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  15. I think we gave this book the same rating, and had pretty much the same ideas about it. I have heard that Looking For Alaska is the stronger of the two? I'm not giving up on Green just yet, I did prefer TFIOS, but I'm wary of his other books. I've heard he's very formulaic, and that TFIOS is actually the best one, and that his hype-following is just that... I love(d) watching his YouTube channels, and think he's a great guy, but his books aren't stellar... R x

    Also, your gifs are HILARIOUS, particularly the Friends one!! I need a rewatch!

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    1. I might try Looking for Alaska, especially since I already own it. I think he has a big hype following, but the books don't usually live up to that hype. I recently did a binge watch of Friends and LOVED it!!! :)

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  16. I thought Paper Towns was OK, but disappointing after all the hype. Some aspects like Q's interactions with his friends were good and I liked the whole paper towns issue and how this was incorporated. The main Q and Margo storyline left me pretty cold though and I did not like that ending!

    This is my review: Stephanie Jane - Paper Towns by John Green

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    1. Exactly. I feel that John Green's books are so overhyped that they can never actually live up to that hype. I might try Looking for Alaska, but I am not in a rush to do it.

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  17. I haven't read Paper Towns but I also get what you mean. It's the same for me with every John Green book, his characters are just so unrealistic!

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    1. I know, I wish they felt more real. I might try Looking for Alaska, but my expectations are pretty low at this point.

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  18. Yeah, I've read An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska and you pointed out the same issues I had with his other books. It seems like a lot of them build off of the same plot and it just gets repetitive, especially the guy obsessively fawning over the girl constantly.

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    1. Yeah, I hear a lot of his books seem to follow the same kind of plot and it seems a bit boring. I'm not sure if I really want to try more of his books, I worry I will just be disappointed by those as well.

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  19. I haven't read this book but I did see the movie and got basically the same feeling towards Margos character. I have read Looking For Alaska, and I didn't enjoy it. I found Alaska to be insanely annoying. From what I can remember she also was made out to be someone super special, who wasn't. I feel like you might find you'll have the same feelings towards Alaska as you did with this one, but you never know.

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    1. I don't know, I am not sure if I even want to try Looking for Alaska. I already own it, so I might read it at some point but it's not a priority.

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  20. All the points that you have just made were the thoughts I was having throughout the film. Was really excited to read the book but didn't have time before the movie came out and not sure I'm going to bother now :/ I know books are meant to be better than films but ... :/

    Laura @ What's Hot?

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    1. This is making me nervous. A part of me still wants to watch the movie, but I will probably end up not liking that either.

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  21. Well, in a way I think that's the POINT of the book. XD Like that Q was obsessing over Margo and made her into this AAAAMAZING person in his head that she just wasn't IRL. I found the ending a total let down and kinda loathed Margo for it. >_> She was so selfish?!? But I do quite like this book and it ties with Looking for Alaska as my 2nd favourite John Green novel. Tfios is obviously the golden one. xD

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    1. I got that, I understood that it was about how we build people up in our heads and don't see the real them, we see who we want to see. I still didn't like the book. And I still feel like some character actions weren't really explained, I couldn't understand the motivation behind it. I might try Looking for Alaska but I am worried I won't enjoy that one either.

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  22. I'll be reading this within the next few weeks and I hope I enjoy it as my expectations are pretty high! ;D I loved TFIOS so I'm hoping that I'll enjoy this too. Really sorry you couldn't get into it! <3 Great review! :)

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    1. My expectations were really high as well, that's probably why I ended up being disappointed. Sometimes a hype can ruin the book, it makes your expectations far too big!!!

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  23. I didn't enjoy this book either. You perfectly summed up my issue with it. It seems to me that every Green book almost always have the same type of character, very Wise who use a lot of metaphor. That being said I absolutly loved Looking For Alaska by him. The teenagers in this book didn't feel like old Wise persons, they felt like teenagers. Maybe you'll enjoy it more than Paper Town, if you give it a try.

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    1. I think I want to try Looking for Alaska, and if I am disappointed with that one then I might give up on his books. I just don't think his characters feel real, too many of them feel like the same person. They don't feel like individuals. I hope I enjoyed Looking for Alaska more, we shall see! :)

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  24. I agree with what you said about John Green's characters: they're special, but they don't feel real. The roadtrip was the saving grace for me in this book as well! I think that may be the part I enjoyed.

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    1. Mine too, that road trip was the part I enjoyed the most and actually had me laughing out loud quite a bit.

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  25. I haven't been all that thrilled with John Green books either. Thought it was just me. :) The whole time I read this one, I kept thinking how ultimately selfish Margo was and how ultimately stupid Quentin was.
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

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  26. YES, YES, YES. I really like and respect John Green as a person, but his books just...never click with me really? Like I wish I could understand what all the hype for him is about, but I just can't. I had the same issue with you on this one - I just didn't really understand what Q saw in Margo that made him go so head-over-heels for her, you know? What made her so special? Thanks for sharing this lovely review Charnell and, as always, fabulous post! ♥

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    1. Yes, that's exactly how I feel. He's a very intelligent and funny man, and I love his videos and blog posts. But his books just don't seem to blow me away. I really did love TFIOS, but this one just didn't work for me at all. I just don't feel like we were ever really shown any reason why Q thought Margo was soooo amazing.

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  27. Watching the Paper Towns movie, and reading multiple reviews on it made me think I'd be as frustrated as you were with the book. I think I've given up at this point, I'm not really interested in reading any of his other novels despite loving TFIOS. Q was so annoying and obsessive and Margo was just so bitchy! Lovely review Charnell.

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    1. That's sad to hear, I was hoping the movie would be better than the book. I think I might avoid seeing this one as I really don't want to waste my time if it isn't that great. I might catch it when it's out on DVD.

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  28. Tbh, I never liked any John Green book besides The Fault in Our Stars, and this book bored me to death! I also tried reading Looking for Alaska, and that one also fell flat to me. I just couldn't get into the picture perfect conversations that John Green's characters have. It's just not at all realistic.
    Great review Charnell!

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    1. I am happy that I am not the only person who struggles with his books. Sometimes it can feel like you're the only one who doesn't get it, but it feels good to find out that so many others feel the same way as I do. I was going to try Looking for Alaska, but now I am a little nervous to try it.

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  29. I absolutely loved The Fault in Our Stars but it's the only John Green book I've read. I wanted to read Paper Towns before seeing the movie but after reading reviews and the blurb I'm pretty sure it won't be my type of read. It's pretty much impossible to really enjoy a book if you don't connect with the characters but I'm glad there was a part of the book that you really enjoyed :) Nice review!

    Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf

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    1. Yeah, I find it really hard to enjoy a book if I don't like the main characters. This just didn't work for me at all. I don't know if I should try more by John Green, or give up. I've heard Looking for Alaska is very similar to this one, so that puts me off.

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  30. I couldn't really get into this book either - especially since my expectations for John Green were quite high after loving TFiOS. To be honest, Looking For Alaska didn't really work for me either and I just couldn't resonate with her character at all *sigh* Even so, I hope to read another fantastic John Green book soon! Thanks for sharing the review Charnell :)

    Eugenia @ Genie In A Book

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    1. Me too, I really hope another book by him will blow me away. I don't know if Looking for Alaska will be the one though, I've heard it is very similar to Paper Towns.

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  31. Normally, I love John Green's books, but Paper Towns wasn't my favourite. I loved TFIOS and Looking for Alaska, but this one I didn't like as much. Good review!

    Plus, I nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award here: http://morningsandepilogues.blogspot.hk/2015/08/sisterhood-of-world-bloggers-award.html

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    1. I might still try Looking for Alaska, I am unsure at this point and a little nervous to start it.

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