Ellen's Reviews > Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green
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Sep 26, 2008

it was ok

I was disappointed in this book, especially since John Green is an author I've been meaning to read for some time now. He writes Young Adult novels (Looking for Alaska [wherein "Alaska" is a girl's name], An Abundance of Katherines, to name a couple) and is both a popular and critical success. This is the first of his books that I've read, and I wish now that I'd started with one of his earlier ones.

In a nutshell, this novel bored me. If I were a teenager (the novel's primary audience) reading this book, it's doubtful that I would have finished it. Green failed to make me care.

There were some interesting ideas sprinkled throughout (not that many of them, though), and some of the dialogue was entertaining (very much soon-to-be-dated teenspeak, as is often the case in YA lit), but I only actually liked one of the characters--Radar--and he wasn't the protagonist. Ouch.

Mr. Green just didn't tell much of a story here, nor did he do any of the things that make me forgive a lack of story (experimenting with form; relating incredibly real characters, either likeable or not; achieving transcendent language/description; getting across startling or important ideas--none of these).

I will, out of a sense of professional duty and based on the recommendations of people I trust, try one more of John Green's books--probably Looking for Alaska. But this heavily-marketed, much-heralded waste of dead trees? Don't bother. I only gave it two stars because of Radar.
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Reading Progress

September 26, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
October 13, 2008 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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Shaya I think Looking for Alaska is definitely better. They have many of the same elements so you still may not like it, but I think Looking for Alaska is more interesting. I like how nerdy Green's books are and that's what draws me in as a teen reader.


Ellen Thanks! I will give it a try, and probably An Abundance of Katherines, too. I like nerdy books myself--and even though I rambled on about it, I'm not sure why this one just didn't click for me. Have you seen the short story collection Geektastic yet? John Green did one of the stories, and most of them are pretty great/hilarious (a couple get kind of dark). Definitely nerdy.


message 3: by Gerd (last edited Jul 25, 2010 06:42AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gerd 'Tis my first Green book too, and I have to totally agree with your view, Radar is the only really likable charater. The main protagonist Q has no real personality of his own and Margo is such a damn self absorbed, in your face character that I find her hardly bearable.
Though, I've never been fond of profanity in books in general, and there's an abundance of that here, especially from Margo's character, so I guess Green is just not mine to read...

However, he does have the doubled standards by which teens act pat down. For which I should probably give him extra points, but so far I struggle to even give this two stars at all.


Ellen Well, I haven't logged in to GR for a while--and I'm so busy trying to keep up with new stuff coming out that I *still* haven't gone back to read Looking for Alaska (BAD me!)--but I did read Will Grayson, Will Grayson a while back and absolutely loved it! Also, on a kind of funny note, I assumed that the chapters I liked the best were written by David Levithan, because I consistently enjoy his books...but they turned out to be John Green's! Go figure. The same guy who invented Margo (yes, Gerd, she is WAY too self-absorbed for me, too!) also created Tiny Cooper.


Curtesha Radar actually was my favourite character, too.

Unlike you, however, I'm not picking up anymore John Green books, unless it happens to be a life or death situation.


Ellen Looking for Alaska is still on my list, Steven... if they'd just quit publishing NEW books, I'd probably make more headway on reading the great ones I've missed! :-| But I'd also be sad, so I guess I should schedule at least one "older books" weekend a month and get to it!

Yeah...I was pretty bored with Margot myself. And generally somewhat annoyed, too.

Someday, I will post my opinion of LFA here.


Ellen And hey, Curtesha, maybe if it's good enough, I can convince you it's a matter of life and death to try Green again. ;-)


David just so you're aware, I think this review sucks. haha no offense, but it seems to me that you barely even read the book. Everything you say it should have, but doesn't, is actually there. (experimenting with form, realistic characters etc.) especially since basically the whole thing is about the troubles of life and how they affect people differently. Green brings in several philosophies on what people really are and how they are affected both individually and as a group by what comes their way.
I also think he does a good job of making the characters realistic. from the fact that Ben has a nickname for the opposite sex, to the fact that Margo really isn't all that likable, but is still loved by Quentin, to the whole emotional roller coaster Quentin has to ride, he gives his characters realistic quirks, ideas, problems and faults. I love the fact that he makes the reader either Love or Hate Margo. I think it makes an important point about the human heart and how it works emotionally.
Maybe you didn't think it tells much of a story because it doesn't apply all that much to you, but to a teenager it hits the nail on the head describing the many ways people cope with things and try to survive the torrential deluge of crap that comes our way. Even when the story seems kind of slow, the main character is having learning experiences from just what's around him. I think that's important. It shouldn't always be huge life-changing experiences that bring a character to a realization. Quentin is reflective and observant and spends his time learning and acting on what he learns, rather than just being acted upon. These are the reasons I love this book.
Now don't get me wrong, you are of course entitled to your own opinion about this book, but if you're going to try to back up your opinion, you should at least back it up with real facts.


Ellen Ah, that's the thing about book reviews, David--they are 100% opinion. The "facts" you're talking about are all interpretation/connected to your own experience of the book, which means that everything you say is valid. But it also means that nothing you say makes *my* review "wrong."

I guess I got a little snarky about Paper Towns b/c there are SO MANY amazing YA books out there that don't/didn't get a fraction of the press that this one got. Seems unjust to me.

Also, FWIW, I couldn't agree with you more that neither huge, life-changing experiences nor a storyline is necessary for me to love a book.

But I'm very glad to hear that you liked it! Makes it not a waste of trees. :-)


message 10: by Erin (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin David, I'm a teenager and I didn't feel that this book "hit the nail on the head" for me or my friends. Like Ellen said, book reviews are by nature opinions, and thus are backed up by interpretations rather than facts. It's great if the way you interpret a certain book holds a lot of positive meaning for you, but don't assume that someone's opinion "sucks" just because it is different from your own.


Amanda Yancey I completely agree with you. I read "The Fault in Our Stars" first and then the other John Green books. I definitely grew bored with this one quickly and think you should give "The Fault in Our Stars" a chance.


Ellen Bad, bad me. I have been busy working and reading but haven't posted new reviews...

Anyway, thanks for add'l comments, likes, dislikes, etc. On a totally unrelated note, I find it interesting that the review of mine that people comment on and like is one of my few negative ones! Hmmm...

Update: I did read The Fault in Our Stars and LOVED it, Amanda. Gonna post that review...eventually. :-)


message 13: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy I agree! I really liked Radar. Q was okay. I wanted to bash Ben in the head.


Ashley I agree, Radar was my favorite in this awful novel


Cassidy I felt that we didn't know the characters quite enough in this book of his, but the entire basis of the book and all of the things Green includes are very interesting and thoughtful.


message 16: by Tasha (new) - rated it 1 star

Tasha Okay I'm 15, and paper towns was the most boring book I've read yet. Looking for Alaska and fault in our stars we're amazing books, I read them both In a week, I loved them. But paper towns I just kept trying to read it to see if it would get better and it never did. It was boring and stupid. Nothing in the book mattered. Wow the main character try's to find a friend that ran away, honestly what teenager would want to read about that? And it was metaphor after metaphor, I don't care. And I'm pretty sure lots of people didn't care . This book had no meaning to me .


KillerGal I feel like John Green tries to hard to make his book "meaningful". But seriously although it was well written, the plot is so meaningless and boring. It did not engage me at all. Still contemplating if I should give him two or three stars.


KillerGal I feel like John Green tries to hard to make his book "meaningful". But seriously although it was well written, the plot is so meaningless and boring. It did not engage me at all. Still contemplating if I should give him two or three stars.


KillerGal I feel like John Green tries to hard to make his book "meaningful". But seriously although it was well written, the plot is so meaningless and boring. It did not engage me at all. Still contemplating if I should give him two or three stars.


message 20: by Brynn (new)

Brynn Lautenbacher I think that Green did struggle connecting with his younger audience, but he did tell a mostly good story. His characters were hard to understand and connect with, but his story was fun to watch. It was exciting to see Q follow the clues that Margo left for him. Overall, this book was a really fun adventure to follow, despite the characters.


Nicola Exactly what I was thinking. I also gave 2 stars for Radar aha


Melanie Hall I totally agree-Radar was the only redeemable character. Smart and quirky in a believable way-unlike everybody else.


message 23: by Shawyon (new)

Shawyon Shirazi To me, this book wasn't my favorite of the John Green books. I love John Green, but not so much what he wrote here. I am a teenager, yet i still found it hard to relate myself to the characters, therefore making me sort of uninterested and unattached to what was going on in their lives. I didn't feel for Margo when she ran away from home for the reasons that she did like just for a cheating boyfriend and other factors. I also didn't have any feeling towards Q, who was in love with this girl that was only with him as a friend back when they were little kids until she randomly decided to come into his room through the window. I don't see anything relatable to a teenager who forces his friends to go a a 10+ hour road trip just to find one of their friends in New York. This book pretty much had me unattached from start to end.


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