Popular and notorious Margo Roth Spiegelman shocks Quinten out of his low-key, rule-abiding existence when she drags him along with her on a night of pranks and misadventures. When Margo disappears the following morning, Quinten believes she left clues to her whereabouts behind, hoping he will find her. As he searches for clues, he realizes there’s much more to Margo than the queen bee people perceive her to be. Through the Whitman poem she leaves behind and the abandoned hideaway Quinten discovers, he learns about seeing past the faux exterior to knowing someone as they are and the importance of building a genuine interconnected community.
Quinten and his pals Ben and Radar team up to unlock the mystery of Margo’s disappearance. Radar’s parents’ odd collection provides that quirky humor classic to Green’s novels, though Ben’s constant trilling about girls becomes repetitive and obnoxious. The transformation of Quinten’s view of Margo is a bit predictable, though it’s deepened by the exploration of “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman and the story’s metaphor centered around “paper towns,” a reference first made by Margo herself.
As a native Central-Floridian, many moments in the story’s setting really resonated, calling to mind specific memories of drives down Florida’s roads and highways. It was fun reading something set in places so familiar.
While this was a fascinating story, it’s hard to compare it to Green’s other novels. The Fault in Our Stars in particular is a tough act to beat. Readers may enjoy this one more by reading it before devouring TFIOS.
Quinten’s best friend is pretty much obsessed with girls, whom he refers to as Honey Bunnies. While he has limited success, his comments can be crass and repetitive. Quinten looks through an open doorway at a couple having sex, hoping for a glimpse of the girl topless. One of Quinten’s friends plans to lose his virginity with his girlfriend on graduation night.
Margo briefly mentions her Jewish heritage.
A bully picks on Quinten and his friends.
Quinten goes to a party as the designated driver and witnesses his friends and other teens drinking alcohol and being generally and ridiculously drunk.