Paper Towns is a book by John Green, who also wrote, among other things, Looking for Alaska and The Fault in our Stars. It follows Quentin Jacobsen, a teenager from Orlando, as he tries to find his neighbour Margo, after she runs away. It is actually my favourite John Green book, due to it's highly comedic nature. It divides quite nicely into three parts - the first part, a pranking spree with enough tension to make it feel like an actual war. The middle bit reads a good bit slower, and is almost like a mystery. Then we get into the road trip, which is where the book really hits its stride.
Like most John Green books, there is a running theme of "do we ever really know people?" and "is the face someone presents to the world who they really are?" but in this one, there is also a thread of "do we ever know ourselves?" Quentin, arguably, learns more about himself over the course of the book then he does Margo.
As expected from a John Green book, the characters dance right off the page and embed themselves into your consciousness. He seems to have a knack for character names - Margo Roth Speigelman, maybe because it is repeated so often, has been in my mind since I first read the book. As a character, Margo is flighty, not exactly likeable, but not dislikeable either. She pulls you in to her adventure in the same way she does with Quentin, and like Quentin, we'll spend much of the rest of the book trying to understand her. Quentin, a somewhat-shy nerdy type, displays surprising qualities and grows into a more confident individual. I grew to really like Lacey over the course of the book. Quentin's friends, Ben and Radar, are between them responsible for some of the funniest moments and display enough loyalty to go along with Quentin's more ridiculous schemes, but also know when to call him out for being too obsessed with Margo. Ben sometimes talks in ways I don't like, but as far as I know, it's realistic to how teenage boys actually talk.
A lot has been said about Green's use of Manic Pixie Dream Girls. I don't think Margo qualifies for the label, personally. An MPDG to me is someone who puts all of his or her energy into making a love interest feel better about themselves, while displaying many quirky traits. And no, I don't feel like they have to be exclusively female. If anything, Margo subverts this trope. Pulling Quinten along for the ride the night she leaves was more an act of convenience, since she needed a car. Her running away was purely for herself, and Quentin wasn't meant to come chasing after her.
The film suffered from comparisons to The Fault in our Stars, but I honestly like it better. It's much more lighthearted, the slower portion of the book keeping the humour in the movie. Lacey and Quentin had more chemistry then Lacey and Ben or Quentin and Margo (I know there was a reason, but it's worth mentioning). I have a lot to say about the changes to the ending, but I can't mention them here without spoiling, so I won't.
Recommended for teenagers and adults with teenage hearts who would appreciate a book that will make them laugh.