by John Green
3 out of 5 stars
Teen/YA lit is attacking theaters again this summer. I already reviewed the subpar but likely good movie Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. This time The Fault in Our Stars author John Green is adapted with an earlier novel Paper Towns, which proved far superior to the “Okay. Okay,” romance I found unappealing in his most recent bestseller. Paper Towns is the story of high school senior Quentin’s search for his missing neighbor/love interest Margo Roth Spiegelman, the oft full-name used queen bee of his school. When she departs after a night of revenge, a breadcrumb trail of clues is left behind for the smitten Quentin. He and his friends search for their missing classmate through music, Whitman, abandoned storefronts, and road trips.
The novel starts off very strong with the embittered Margo invading Quentin’s room to take him on a mad romp against her cheating boyfriend and worthless friends. Breaking and entering (but never at the same time), blackmail, and philosophical pondering proceed in a pleasing, page turning adventure. Unfortunately, the pace and excitement die out the days following, as Margo, the most interesting character, disappears. Q and friends Ben, a lady obsessed virgin; Radar, a Wiki-like article editor and only friend in an actual relationship; and Lacey, Margo’s kind of friend.
The story can drag as Q focuses on the minuscule details he finds that he things and hopes are related to Margo’s whereabouts. He keeps going back to the same problems with friends and same locations to look through barely changed clues. It made me wish for chapters to fly by. The road trip toward the end is a notable uptake, and the story ends on a pleasantly self-reflective note to bring the adventure to a pleasant end of a growing experience.
The coming-of-age genre has lost its appeal for me. Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Ordinary People were some of my favorite novels in high school, with OP holding over for the strong family drama theme, but most of the genre has lost its effect. The same could be said of Paper Towns. Likely, I would have enjoyed this book much more my junior year in high school, but as it came out two years after I graduated, that’s an impossibility. Side note: very good c-o-a drama is The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd.
As for the film adaptation, I have to have some faith in it. The novel contains a steady flow of scenes reproducible on film, and in the consistently reliable hands of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the duo responsible for 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now–and The Fault in Our Stars, but I chalk that misstep as a love story dripping with teenaged sentimentality that I could not muster an appeal–, I have faith the adaptation will not fizzle. The cast includes mostly newcomers. Quentin is played by Nat Wolff, who I found properly offsetting in Admission. His performance as an unadventurous teen coming into his own confidence should be performed well. Margo is played by a fierce eyed Cara Delevingne, who will hopely portray the confidence of the character. The cast is young and fresh, lacking the familiar faces that can be a distraction from the story and characters. Director Jake Schreier will hopefully be able to survive the uneven pacing of the source to provide an enjoyable experience. His well-received film Robot & Frank took an unlikely pair on an adventure, so his teen sleuths should provide an easier effort.
Paper Towns releases on July 24, 2015, and I imagine it to be a moderate success; likely it won’t be TFIOS grossing, but John Green should receive another surge of book purchases from the release.
Have you read the book?