Kelly's Reviews > Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green
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Mar 09, 10

bookshelves: read-in-2008, ya-fiction

** spoiler alert ** This would get a 3 1/2 stars.

Okay. John Green had me in part one. He somewhat had me through half of part two. But after that? I just didn't care.

All of his main characters in each book are the same: the geeky/nerdy smart boy seeking the hard-to-reach girl who is just so captivating. And the cast of flat, monotone characters with whom said boy and girl associate.

Although I think this book is his strongest story-line wise, when it's the third in a series of same, it's not that interesting anymore. Green has a gift of writing and telling a story, but it's time to move on to something new and more exciting. I'd rather read something that is an utter failing than the same thing over and over.

That said, I think people who aren't part of the John Green cult would feel similarly. It's repetitive. And were I to recommend a John Green to someone, it would probably not be this one. I like Looking for Alaska best because it was the first and it was the original idea; this is a better telling, perhaps, but it's also not original.

Likewise, I find the entire idea of the paper town/paper person metaphor extremely trite. Even young readers get it. There's nothing new or original. I also think it moves slowly, particularly the last 100 pages of the book. We know EXACTLY what'll happen, and there is nothing that saves the miserable ride through those last pages. It tries too hard to be funny with the roadtrip scenes, particularly in reference to the clothing fiascoes.

But, the book redeems itself for a few reasons garnering it a 3.5, rather than a 2.5: I love the use of Whitman's poem, though I think it's not explained enough (almost with the teacher, but then the emergence of Emily Dickinson at the end really makes the explanation falter); the images and descriptions are fun; and, well, the story isn't terrible.

One thing that continually frustrated me was the fact the story tries to be realistic but there are just too many things that don't belong. It's unreasonable to believe anyone would let their kid skip graduation to go on a roadtrip to nowhere New York. It's also unrealistic these kids would carry 200 cans of beer with them, UNDERAGE, to New York. And, why is it none of them has a cell phone? Pick one: be real or be unreal. You can't do both!

As a total aside, there's a line in the book along the lines of "people as places as people," and it seemed way too uncanny that Green would write that himself. It's a name of a song by Modest Mouse, released about a year before the book. Why I mention it and would even notice is that Green weaves the Mountain Goats into the book, and it almost seems unattributed. It could be coincidence, but it almost seems like it's impossible for that to be the case.
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Reading Progress

12/07/2008 page 65
21.31% "MUCH better than AAK..."
12/08/2008 page 100
32.79% "All right. The tirade about the idea of papertowns is cliche and painful. But the story's good otherwise."
12/08/2008 page 250
81.97% "I have so much to say about this book,but I don't know how I can translate it out of my mind. Good and bad."

Comments (showing 1-5)




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Janssen I went back and read my, um, three sentence review and I've decided LFA is my favorite of the three so far. I think he's a great writer, but I also think he has a hard time maintaining the story line. In all three books, I felt like the last 1/3 or so kind of dragged. Great review.


Kelly Janssen wrote: "I went back and read my, um, three sentence review and I've decided LFA is my favorite of the three so far. I think he's a great writer, but I also think he has a hard time maintaining the story li..."

I felt like I kept missing something reading it, like there was something more. But there wasn't. Then I remember the feeling I had the first time I read Looking for Alaska (I read it when it came out back in the day...) and it was nothing similar. It's disappointing because Green has such writing potential, but he's spending it on the same stuff over and over. I think LFA will be less and less enjoyable or recommendable the more he puts out similar things.

I agree on the storyline. I feel like he does such a great job then wants to run and finish it. Then he resorts to the same ending. It'll be interesting to see him evolve. He's at least got a cult status, but I wonder, too, how much those folks are interested in his writing or in him. Not that one's better than the other, but it might make it clearer why his books don't get quite the criticism I think they deserve.


message 3: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen Petro-Roy I'm on disc 5 of the audiobook and not sure what I think. It's my first John Green and I had high hopes, but I'm a bit disappointed. Ben is driving me crazy, it seems like Green is trying almost too hard to have witty dialogue, and the plot is lagging a bit now.


Kelly Jen wrote: "I'm on disc 5 of the audiobook and not sure what I think. It's my first John Green and I had high hopes, but I'm a bit disappointed. Ben is driving me crazy, it seems like Green is trying almost to..."

In my experience, he has a lot of teen fans...but the bulk of his fans are librarians. I like him as a person a lot more than his writing. I couldn't even finish Abundance of Katherines. Looking for Alaska was my favorite.


Chrissy I agree with you on most your points, but they do have cell phones. Margo uses Qs to call her parents at the end and they all called their parents to tell them they were skipping graduation.


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