I have to say, I was predisposed to like this book for far too many reasons to ignore it.
Reason #1: I love John Green. I don’t mean in some crazy boy-crush sort of mixed -up thing. That would be too much like one of his characters, or one of mine. I just find him an absolutely enthralling intellect and personality.
Reason #2; I know him from YouTube.
He posts videos for Vlog Brothers (with his brother Hank who is also someone I wish I knew in real life). He also does Crash Course History and Mental Floss. You can get to know how the man truly thinks and feels because he puts all of himself into his writing. (I know the YouTube videos don’t seem like writing, but they are. How could they not be?)
Reason #3; I know him as one of the geniuses behind the Mental Floss series of books and magazines.
These wonderful books are brimming with weird and wonderful facts and narratives that are researched enough to feel like, if they aren’t actually true, they should be.
The books contain all kinds of things that make you go “Hang on there a minute, Bubba! What the hell are you saying?” These are things you have to reread at least twice. You have to reread once for yourself, and at least once reading out loud to members of your family to watch their eyes pop out of their head like they are in a Tex Avery cartoon right before they explode with laughing.
Reason #4; I saw the movie of The Fault in Our Stars before I ever had a chance to find and buy a copy of the book. It made me laugh and it made me cry… both with the same degree of soul-punching feeling I want so desperately to put into my own fiction. I have not read this book yet, but I already know it is on my list of top ten all-time favorite books.
So, of course I have left myself only two hundred words to actually review the book itself. And I can’t do it.
This book is a quest book. It tells the story of Q (short for Quentin, a near-genius thinker and feeler who has to be John Green’s idea of himself) who meets a girl at his bedroom window one night. She’s a girl who he has known and gone to school with his entire life. But he doesn’t know her at all. And she takes him on a whirlwind one-night adventure of doing crazy things he would’ve never done otherwise. Then she disappears. She is gone. She may be dead. And she has left clues for Q to follow and maybe find her. She leaves clues in a copy of Walt Whitman’s poetic masterpiece, Leaves of Grass for Crissake! It becomes a quest of one person finding another person… not just that physical person… but who that person really is… how she thinks and feels. It is a quest to find the meaning of “Paper Towns”… places that aren’t real, even though they are. It is about connecting yourself to other people by the roots, the same way that the “leaves of grass”in your lawn are connected to each other. And, dammit! I am well over 500 words again. And why? Simply because you have to read this book. It is so good it crosses over all boundaries of genre and intended audience. Yes, it is a Young Adult novel… a kids’ book. But it was written for you, even if you are 559 years old like me. (And that is not a typo… If you don’t already know what hyperbole is, you should look it up, because I just gave you 500 years worth).