Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Nook - Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green:

First of all, my apologies for the amazon link not working.  I'll check back to see if I can fix it (here is a separate amazon link in the meantime)!

I was really on the fence about posting Paper Towns in Book Nook.  I liked the book, but there were definitely things about it that I didn't like.  The characters were somewhat relatable, but I didn't feel a big concern over what happened to them one way or another.  The writing was good, but I had trouble suspending disbelief in the plot.

So, why is the book here then, you may ask?

One reason and one reason only: I found it fascinating to read a book by a writer gaining his stride.  John Green wrote the very successful The Fault in Our Stars (which I really loved - see the Book Nook post here).  You can see Green starting to gain momentum and working out the kinks with Paper Towns.  It's almost like a rough draft for The Fault in Our Stars.  Both books deal with high school age students on the outside of the crowd.  There is a quest to be had in both books.  A specific novel within each novel plays a key role in both (Paper latches on to Leaves of Grass / Song of Myself while Fault obsesses on a fictional novel).  Green pays a great deal of attention to how teenagers speak, and both novels feel like you are in the midst of a group of teens, sometimes in a fun place (a graduation party), sometimes in a depressing place (Cancer group therapy in a church basement).  Both novels show a respectful and seemingly realistic relationship between the protagonist and his/her parents.  In both novels, Green shows a great deal of respect to his young characters, not patronizing or overly-stereotyping them.

So these are the things I took away from the book.  It was so interesting to see Green's earlier work, and compare it with its more polished, more successful sibling.  It shows a writer's progression, which I found fascinating to discover between the lines.

But, as I mentioned, I am on the fence about the book.  Perhaps if I were in the targeted age group, I could relate to some of the scenes and characters more (the party scene had me rolling my eyes).  I had trouble believing our main character's wild night of revenge with the mysterious girl next door, Margo Roth Spiegelman.  Probably my biggest criticism is that there were no consequences for any character's actions.  For instance, when our protagonist, Quentin, and his group of friends hit the road to find Margo, "Q" worries about getting a speeding ticket, since they are in a big hurry.  And they have a trunk full of beer, and they're all underage.  That might make for an interesting predicament for our characters if they were to get pulled over...........but no, don't worry, because that sort of thing doesn't happen in this book.  Worst case scenario, they forget something they wanted to buy at the gas station when they stop for fuel.

So, maybe this is why I wasn't very invested in the characters.  There were no consequences, nothing riveting in the story that happens due to their actions.  Sometimes life is that way, and sometimes it isn't, but I felt a little let down by it all in the book.

John Green has a couple of other novels out, and I might just pick one up, just to see how it compares to Fault.  Even though this novel didn't have me in its clutches like his later work, I gained some understanding as a reader by comparing the two.

Have you found yourself in this situation - comparing an author's earlier novel to his/her later work?


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