*Paper Towns* by John Green. Speak (Penguin Books), 2008.
Another excellent and thoughtful teen novel from author of the best-selling *The Fault in Our Stars.* It was also a winner of the Edgar Award for best young adult mystery novel.
Quentin is a high school senior in Orlando, Florida. His next door neighbor is the dynamic, charismatic Margo. They were good friends when they were 10 but by the time they got to high school, he was in NerdLand and she was a school leader. He is still fixated on her. A few weeks before graduation, she climbs into his second story window and drags him off for a night of adventures, getting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and other people, and breaking into SeaWorld, just to say they did. She complains how she hates living in this paper town with all the paper people. Quentin is hoping this will be the start of something between them; but the next day Margo does not show up for school. She has left a cryptic, depressed note and a lot of clues. Quentin fears she may have been contemplating suicide, and he talks several friends into helping him track through the clues. As he does, he begins to realize that he has kept this idealized image of Margo in his head for years; but he has no idea what she is really like. To track her down, he will have to learn who she really is – and to discover a lot more about himself.
Excellent dialogue and characters, with some hilarious scenes, will keep teen readers galloping along; but the philosophy and wisdom is what will stick with them. Walt Whitman’s *Leaves of Grass* provides a lot of the clues and subtext for the story (and gave me a better understanding of the work, too). A challenging book in a lot of ways, not necessarily as a hard read, but as a book which challenges the reader to move toward adulthood.
*The Fault in our Stars* is probably more universal in its appeal to both teen and adult readers; but anyone who likes books for this age group will like this, too. A film version of *Paper Towns* will be released this summer.
Reviewer ~ Steve Bridge, retired children’s librarian