Paper Towns - I feel weird about this

Sylvia3Sylvia3 PennsylvaniaPosts: 98 ✭✭✭
edited July 2014 in John's Books
So, I just finished Paper Towns, which is the only John Green book I've read. I felt uneasy about it and I was wondering if anyone else felt that way? I felt like Quentin was going insane trying to read too much into things, and that was happening throughout most of the book. But it also bothered me that other people (like the adults) weren't taking him seriously enough when he was concerned that Margo could be dead. Overall, I found the book to be kind of isolating. 


  • Gara_the_engineerGara_the_engineer In a log house at the edge of the forestPosts: 633 ✭✭✭
    I didn't feel uneasy about it although I worried a lot while he thought Margo might be dead. Of course it's bothering that they didn't take him seriously, but the thing is that even though people should take that kind of things serious, many don't because they're too scared of it to admit it being a possibility. I disliked their actions but liked that the book was like that, if that make sense.
    I did too find it kind of isolating, but in my opinion it's just being truthful about how it is. I felt at home in it. And it made me think of things the way I think John intended, how I always see others from where I'm standing, instead of trying to imagine them complexly.
    The meaning of life is to give life a meaning
  • clausitclausit EnglandPosts: 7,809 ✭✭✭✭
    It's isolating but I think at the same time it's also really uplifting. I mean, the whole book is about how no one can ever really know anyone else, but at the same time it's possible to make real, powerful emotional connections with people regardless. The world is dark, but there are cracks where the light gets in. That's the point of the ending to me. Yeah you're alone, but you can find people to be alone with and that isn't insignificant. Even if it is temporary.
    You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted but mostly they're darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin. Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?
  • Sylvia3Sylvia3 PennsylvaniaPosts: 98 ✭✭✭
    edited July 2014
    I get that the book has meaning, but that's not enough for me. I didn't feel uplifted by it. At the end, I just felt like important things were being sorted out, and everything sort of felt okay and real again. But I didn't think it made up for the uneasiness of the rest of the book. It's not even about being alone for me. I feel fine being alone, but I feel isolated and disconnected from people when there are too many misunderstandings. The thing is, the whole plot was driven by a misunderstanding, and it could have been avoided if Margo had just left a note at the strip mall. 

    Also, I don't think I embrace some of these messages. I don't believe the world is dark, I think the world is complex and wonderful. I don't think we're ultimately alone, I think we're individual, and you can spend your whole life getting to know someone and have it be a good experience, but you can also care a whole lot about people you barely know, and not in an obsessive way, in a good way. 
  • clausitclausit EnglandPosts: 7,809 ✭✭✭✭
    Perhaps I was being overly cynical. It's a response to nihilism. It is a way to deal with the fact that it is ultimately impossible to truly know another person. And I think that ultimately the book agrees with you. It is worth it to try. You can, and should, care for people, even if you don't know them perfectly. Even if you don't succeed you have to try to connect with people. Because you can get close enough that it doesn't matter.

    'I can see her almost perfectly in this cracked darkness.' I always come back to that. Because yeah it's an almost, but almost perfect is still pretty good. After all that searching they do find that connection. And in my experience at least those kinds of connections are difficult to build, and come after misunderstanding and miscommunications, especially at that age, but the book argues that it is still possible and that it it totally worth it to almost get yourself killed in a mad cross-country road trip just to make that connection.

    To me that's what the ending is about and what saves the book. You can have those connections, you can learn about people, you can get closer. Just cause it's not perfect doesn't mean it's not good.
    You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted but mostly they're darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin. Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?
  • Follydust321Follydust321 Posts: 30
    edited July 2014
    I think you have to keep in mind that the character's in this novel are not perfect, and they aren't meant to be. They are annoying, obtuse, self-centered; just like people in the real world. They are also caring, empathetic, and intelligent.  All of that is okay. It's also okay to feel unsettled and isolated during, and after, reading a book. This can be a change if you are used to happy, or well tied up books; but it doesn't make the reading experience less valuable. 

    Some of the best books you will ever read, if you allow your mind to be open, will make you feel completely unsettled and unsure after reading them. 

    Plus, pretty much everything that @clausit said. 
  • Sylvia3Sylvia3 PennsylvaniaPosts: 98 ✭✭✭
    I have read books in the past that made me feel unsettled, even disturbed, but then I felt resolved and moved after reading them. I didn't feel that way about Paper Towns. I felt like the feeling of unsettlement I had was not based on something deep and meaningful, it was just the result of being dragged along on some guy's obsessive journey. I think I could understand a lot about the book and it wouldn't change how I felt. Sure, there's a lot to think about, like why the book made me feel that way. I guess every book is valuable in some way, because after you read it, you can be like "what was that all about?" and it gives you something to think about. But I'm not going to seek out that kind of book-reading experience again, because I think there are other books that would be both meaningful and fulfilling to me. 

    I understand that other people love Paper Towns, which is great. I'm just responding to the ideas that it's valuable for me to read a book that feels unsatisfying to me.
  • Follydust321Follydust321 Posts: 30
    @Sylvia3 : I know what you mean. I was certainly really annoyed by the obsessive journey (great way to put it), and it is, by far, my least favorite John Green book. However, in the end I just focused on how the book made me see things from another viewpoint and situation. Plus, the ending was pretty moving for me, but everyone reacts to things differently. 
  • crazypenguincrazypenguin SerbiaPosts: 22
    I certainly felt that the ending was a bit anticlimactic. I remember, while I was in the middle of the book, I felt like this quest that Q is on is like ... a capital Q Quest, you know (still almost certain that his name is actually connected to this). It's something completely life changing and the most important thing in the world. His exaggerated obsession, and all the tiny clues kind of help to build up that atmosphere around his journey. The rejecting parents are also a part of that, cause their behavior kind of adds to his loony heroism.

    I remember I couldn't resist thinking that the end would be super pompous, like eg. Margo never really existed, and is just a part of a collective imagination, or Q finds her and they get like married on the spot or something like that. But that doesn't happen. The realest thing in the world happens - pretty much nothing unexpected or strange. I think that's part of why the book left you feeling the way it did.

    I know that when I had finished the book, I felt kind of betrayed by the ending for this very reason, but then I recognized that feeling - it was the same feeling that I got after I myself went on quests that were super important to me. In real life, your stories will (almost :) ) never end like fairy tales, but they can still be awesome stories, and they can transform you into an awesome person if you let them.

    That's my take on it, anyway. (:
    Oscail an doras don tailleir fhidhleir 
    Oscail an doras don fhidhleir tailleir 
    Oscail an doras don tailleir fhidhleir 
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  • Sylvia3Sylvia3 PennsylvaniaPosts: 98 ✭✭✭
    I remember I couldn't resist thinking that the end would be super pompous, like eg. Margo never really existed, and is just a part of a collective imagination, or Q finds her and they get like married on the spot or something like that. But that doesn't happen. The realest thing in the world happens - pretty much nothing unexpected or strange. I think that's part of why the book left you feeling the way it did.
    Actually, I think the end was the first time in the book that things felt okay, because they felt real, and I was like "why did the whole rest of the book have to drag me through all that crap," like there wasn't enough at the end to make up for all of it. And I could tell that this was the case gradually as I was getting toward the end, but I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened. 
  • clausitclausit EnglandPosts: 7,809 ✭✭✭✭
    To me the middle of the book is mostly there to connect the good beggining to the fantastic ending (which is something I say of most John's books, except the other ones keep going after the 'ending' and sort of peter out). I get what your saying, in that a lot of it doesn't really gell, and I'm probably quite biased, since I am so much like Q. It feels like a lot of John's books in that it sets up that excpectation and then derails it. that's part of what I like about the book, that it is from such a messy, uncomfortable, teenage perspective, only to reach perfect clarity at the very end. It's like a metaphor for my entire process growing up. You can't really appreciate that revelation without being dragged through the muddledness that came first. I get why you might not enjoy that, or find it fulfilling, but for me it just works.
    You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted but mostly they're darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin. Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?
  • mutantninjalapenomutantninjalapeno Posts: 110 ✭✭
    I feel like this book isn't supposed to uplift you - it's supposed to feel isolating. Quentin spends almost the whole book building Margo up on a pedestal and obsessing over her and making her into this puzzle that he's going to solve and even when he starts to realize that she might not be dead and, "hey, she's a real person with flaws and foibles and agency," he's still got this notion that he's going to be the hero and rescue her and ride off into the sunset with her. So when that doesn't happen for him, even though she's okay, it's a let down. It's anticlimactic. And I think that's what it can be like to realize that our heroes are human. It's anticlimactic to find out that someone you've made into a mythic figure is human. And for me that's why the book works so well. The whole point is that it's a let down.
  • m83m83 Posts: 6
    I felt exactly the same! It was so damn isolating and usually John's books (even though they are epically sad) leave me with a happy feeling like all hopeful and PIZZZAA but this one was really like (I don't even know what I'm tryna say) depressing and weird........
  • KurokamiKurokami Posts: 110 ✭✭
    Q was isolated. He was more individualistic than his friends he fell in love with someone who vanished and nobody cared that she vanished because frankly it had happened before and it wasn't unexpected to them. But it was to Q, perhaps because he knew her on that last night, perhaps because for all that he cared about his image of her he really hardly knew her. In fact nobody really knew her because despite how extroverted she acted she was just as individualistic and isolated as he was. That's in many ways what the whole book was about, being alone among friends and being different from what everyone sees you as. It shows both sides of that, it shows you how Q felt, nobody knowing him or believing him and it showed Margo, whom nobody knew because she didn't let them. It felt like everyone should know and trust what Q is saying but that's only because we the reader know more than the other characters.

    Despite the confusion and isolation of the ending it was, in its own way, happy. He found her, not just physically but he found who she is, or at least more than he knew before. He learned to keep in mind the things we don't know and the differences between people. Margo lived, and she was going to live the whole time even if Q and we the reader didn't know that. Margo didn't change she just became more herself.
    Doctors and Ponies and Zelda, oh...shiny!
  • Dr Dum DumDr Dum Dum Posts: 6
    At its core, I felt that this was a story about breaking isolation and making that connection deep enough to get to know someone in a more complex fashion. It says a lot that Margo leaves clues (wants to be known) and that Q feels that drive to really know her. Although Margo views everyone in two dimensions she still wants that deeper connection, and although Q's interest in Margo is somewhat motivated by attraction (as her's is with him) he still feels the drive to get to know her on a deeper level. That is important, we can feel connected to people beyond what they are to us instrumentally. We don't have to be paper people to one another.

  • jordynp78jordynp78 Posts: 1
    I definitely agree that they should have been more concerned about what Quentin was worried about. However, Do you think their absence of concern meant that they didn't worry about Margo because she was a lone wolf and had always been that way? The obvious understanding was that they didnt care but It could be because they were tired of trying to make her fit into a place that she didn't want to be in. She loved the chase, she wanted to be wanted. But at the same time she didn't want the life that those paper towns had to offer. She had to keep moving because that was who she was.   

  • cagriuluccagriuluc Posts: 1
    I read the book fast and I was kind of uneasy about it, too. For me, the book was about being that guy who is nice and  responsible but lacks the enthusiasm to be brave, to meet people, to take risks and to do crazy things just for the fun of it. I automatically matched myself with Q, I have the same characteristics as him and I too loved girls who are my opposite. 

    Margo was adventurous, brave and enthusiastic about the things she plan to do and Q... Q is kind of numb, he doesn't really want to bother with illegal or harmful stuff. He would like to live his life with his limited number of friends. Even if he wanted to meet more people and have more friends and spend his time differently than normal, he wouldn't fight against himself. He wouldn't be able to change his character to be more, let's say "Margo like". If my feelings about him are true; from the inside Q doesn't just love Margo, he envies her. I think he thinks that "the Margo way" is the true way to live the life; having lots of friends, adventures, spending time working on plans that would satisfy his existential needs, that would make existing a greater experience.

    Q is uneasy about his life. He probably couldn't satisfy his expectation of a good high school time. Loving a girl who has herself a good time isn't helping either. He is kind of trapped. He constantly feels guilty for not trying hard enough to transform himself to a person he would like to be. 

    I personally felt uneasy and guilty through my reading. I accept that this comment is not Q, it's me, but John Green may have had the same problems with his life in high school. I suppose he did, because my alignment with Q was really fast and natural. 

    Existential crisis, John calls this. How should you live your life? What's the way to have a meaningful life? 

    I really like video games, they are little simulations of life. A life that you can choose to have, it can be an assasin's life, it can be an emperor's life, it can be a football manager's life... But these sub-lifes take away your time to live a real life for yourself. Margo doesn't play Resurrection. I always have the argument in my head: "Am I wasting my time with this garbage, or am i enjoying another slice of life that I probably won't be able to experience?"

    "Margo's way" slowly loses it's idealness throughout the book. Some of her ideas and principles start to seem absurd. Like, it's really not a desired way to live alone in some place that completely isolates you. So, you feel uneasy about it, too! Before, you at least had some kind of idole to have: Margo. She was that awesome person that won the life. But now you saw that's not the truth. 
    I started to feel better with Q's decision to run after Margo even if it that meant to abandon the graduation ceremony. He overall became a different person. Not too different, but better than before. 

    This is too long. Really, I just wanted to get it off of me. Also I need to study for my university acceptance exams so writing this is far more interesting than that.

    Summary: I feel uneasy about the book too.
  • theal8rtheal8r Posts: 3
    I thought it was a terrific look at what it is like to b be a socially anxious, depressed teen. It resonated hard with a ... Not mantra, but a phrase that has always played through my head, beginning in adolescence: in the end, at our core, we are always alone.

    It was what propelled Q into action, driving against the outcast status (he wasn't, it was his perception), and then, feeling conflicted to realize his ideal (Margot and the popular life) weren't at all what he thought, just a more expensive version of what he had all along). Finally, he is able to reconcile them. There is no place like home, you can never go back, but the adventure of living is always worth it.

    Margot exemplifies, for me, the ceaseless battering against isolation: demanding that people Know you, rather than inviting people in and allowing them to Know in whatever way they are able. She was very entitled; expected everyone to accept her, growing angry when they couldn't. Q was the opposite; willing to go to where others were in order to Know. He won the richer life, because he was open.
  • Displeased_KittenDispleased_Kitten Texas, USAPosts: 3
    I think Quentin's concern was justified actually, she left really vague clues and a lot of what she said made it seem like she was preparing for an ending, so I'm not surprised he was as worried about her as he was. As for the adults not taking them seriously, I think that is mainly there in the book to justify Margo's need to run away in the first place, since no one was taking her feelings seriously anymore. I think it's supposed to be uplifting in a very complicated way rather than the simple, "everything was fine all along" ending. Ideally you would be uplifted because Margo is starting a life where she can be more herself, and Quentin can shatter his idea of Margo as a perfect whimsical dream and move on. I think the rest of the book making you go trough all that worry was to get you to ask questions about the characters. So, Q was isolated, but all that isolation he experienced freed him from it.
  • MsSonyfanMsSonyfan IndiaPosts: 544 ✭✭
    cagriuluc said:

    If my feelings about him are true; from the inside Q doesn't just love Margo, he envies her.

    I completely agree with you, most of the book I did believe Quentin was in love with Margo just because he said he was. But near the end of the book, [SPOILER ALERT] when he was in the minivan with his friends on his way to New York and, during hour twelve, he's kinda arguing with Ben, trying to convince Ben and himself that really loved Margo, I realized that he wasn't. Yes, maybe he likes his idea of who she is, or just envies the person he thinks she is.
    cagriuluc said:

    I accept that this comment is not Q, it's me, but John Green may have had the same problems with his life in high school.

    I don't know for sure, but I think John wasn't like Quentin when he was in high school. There's this video of him describing his senior prank. Smiley And also a vlogbrother video that came out about a year ago, in which he talks about bunking class and smoking cigarettes (which, honestly, was shocking to me). So he's definitely done things Quentin wouldn't do, or atleast hasn't done (except that first night with Margo). It could be that John felt like Quentin, though, and perhaps more so in other phases of his life.
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