Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Papertown writer

For some reason, I didn't read John Green's Paper Towns for a long time, despite really enjoying his two previous novels. Somehow I got it into my head to try it now, and I'm glad I did. I can't remember the last time I found a story so enjoyable and moving. Quentin, the main character, is an immensely-likeable high school senior, and his quest to locate his neighbor Margo is a hybrid of detective story and soul searching.

The book is quick-moving and absorbing. I saved it for an epic trip to the laundromat, and for a Friday-night ride on the Boltbus. Caught up in the epic road trip near-finale, I almost believed my slowcrawling southbound bus was an overcrowded minivan speeding from Florida to upstate New York.

I talked to J.-- recently about how satisfying young adult fiction can be because of how easy it is to get swept up in the plot. But in this case, it's not only the plot that's moving but also the characters. It's refreshing to find a group of individuals that are are so easy to relate to, at least for me. (Donna Leon's Brunetti and Sheila Heti's Ticknor, two recent acquaintances, are great in their own way but not too much like me. Neither are the schoolgirls in Joshua Gaylord's Hummingbirds, though I am very familiar with their setting.) They think about literature, listen to the Mountain Goats, and make terrible jokes to one another. Quentin's narrative voice is thoughtful and funny and worried in an all-too-easy-to-sympathize-with way. What's not to ilke?

In short, I'd recommend Paper Towns to anyone who wants a quick, fun, yet genuinely emotionally affecting read. Now, onto Infinite Jest...

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