August 5, 2013 by Heidi
Road trip! I adore road trips. The snacks, the sights, rocking out, all that goodness. For this trip we’re driving from New York to Wyoming which will take us through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. We’ll be stopping along the way for some good times, and I’m going to get the boyfriend to listen to his first ever audiobook–The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Woohoo!
Personal favorite? An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.
What’s your favorite road trip read?
Title: Paper Towns [Goodreads]
Author: John Green [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Narrator: Dan John Miller
Standing: Stand alone.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: October 16th, 2008 by Brilliance Audio
Format: Audiobook; 8 hrs, 3 min
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life – dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues – and they?re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew. Printz medalist John Green returns with the brilliant wit and searing emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of listeners.
Eye spy with my little eye, a story.
The time has come! I decided it’d been long enough since I’d read my last John Green that I could pick up another. I do quite enjoy them as far as contemporaries go, but let’s face it, reading An Abundance of Katherines and The Fault In Our Stars within weeks for one another kind of blew me out for a year or so. But when opportunity rolled around, I was all for some obsessing over Margo Roth Spiegelman and her hijinks, particularly when there was a road trip involved to shoehorn this one nicely into my Booking It Across the US tour. In the end I didn’t find myself gasping for breath with this one the way I did with either of the other two John Green’s I’ve read (one from laughter, the other from tears), but I’m still marking this one down as a solidly enjoyable contemporary with a great male protagonist, a focus on friendship, and one heck of a fun road trip.
The thing I love about Paper Towns is also the thing that kind of drives me nuts about it: Q and Margo Roth Spiegelman. Or, to be more specific, that the bulk of this book is about obsessing over who we think someone is when we don’t really know them at all–when maybe no one really knows them at all. Q drove me (and his friends) a little crazy obsessing over what has happened to Margo Roth Spiegelman (no, you can’t really just call her by her first name, the words just won’t come out of my fingers that way), and on the one hand I bemoaned him for a stalkery selfish teen, but on the other hand I feel like he really had a point, and if being the one person who cared enough to find out what happened to this girl fell to Q, then he kind of had to do it. And there’s something poetic about a book where the central character really isn’t present for the bulk of it.
But that’s also kind of Paper Towns‘ downfall. To me, the book was easily split into three distinct sections–the beginning where Q and Margo Roth Spiegelman are having an amazing night, the middle where Q is grasping at straws in his search for Margo Roth Spiegelman, and the end where Q and his friends commit a road trip in order to find Margo Roth Spiegelman. Yes, I do believe that road trips are a thing that can be committed, perhaps the best kind, because they are frantic and dedicated and can involve a severe lack of pants. This intense focus on friendship and solidarity really arises from this last section, and suddenly, for the first time, it doesn’t really matter that Margo Roth Spiegelman isn’t there.
Clearly the ending third was my favorite aspect of this book, not only because of the road trip, but because of what was found at the end of it. I love that John Green has the balls to acknowledge (btw, I use the phrase ‘has the balls’ regardless of gender and really don’t intend it as a gender-biased phrase despite its implicit implications) that not every story needs a fairy tale ending. In fact, for me, it’s those bittersweet endings that are my favorite–they drill home and nest in my heart because they are the most real. I may forget 10 happily ever afters before I’ll ever forget the end of Paper Towns, even though it’s not a book that will ever rank among my favorites.
The other slight downfall of Paper Towns for me was, alas, its narrator. I didn’t really buy Dan John Miller as Q, and my inability to do so off-set the whole story somewhat. While I did get used to his narration, and think he did a fantastic job with Ben and Radar in particular, I wonder if I would have enjoyed this one more had I read it instead of listened. I can’t help but wish that Jeff Woodman, who narrated both Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines had stepped in for Paper Towns as well. Ah well, we can’t have everything.
Paper Towns is a cleverly constructed book that will suck teens in and trick them into developing an interest in things like Walden. And I kind of love that John Green makes it okay to be intelligent, and cool to not be in the popular crowd, and shows that sometimes the awkward kids do get the gorgeous girls. Because all of those things are true, and he’s really good at that as an author–truths. It’ll probably be another year before I’m ready to pick up my as of yet unread John Green, Looking for Alaska, but I like being confident that when I do it won’t be another missed shot at reading contemp for me. And even if it has all of the same notions I won’t really mind, because at least they’re good ones.