Friday, 18 October 2013

Did I Ever Mention That I Love John Green?

It happened again. Don't expect me to be capable of using Amazon to order all my Year 13 books without sneaking in something I actually want to read as well... Sorry A2 Politics textbook but you don't really fit that definition. I don't think there's anything I would prefer to arrive in the post on a Saturday when I don't have to get up to do anything than a new (to me) book that I can dive into and read pretty much in one go. This one was no exception. According to Wikipedia Paper Towns is Youtuber John Green's third novel, but I know this is true because I have also read AND LOVED Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. And don't even get me started on The Fault In Our Stars. I love this book so much it feels like a tiny piece of my soul.
Anyway. Thoughts. It would be wrong to say that Paper Towns is a love story, not because it isn't, but because its so much more than that. Its a growing up story, a coming-of-age tale of life in a small town on the edge of a huge country full of futures. Its about friendship, knowing who you are while accepting that all that could change at any moment. Its about road trips, adventure and mystery. Its about “a lovely, eccentric girl; a mystery that begs to be solved by clever, quirky teens," but also about a boy. A boy who believes in college and jobs and the future and spends his final days of high school questioning all of those beliefs. Paper Towns is all about confronting what is and isn't real. The imaginary towns drawn onto maps that don't really exist are "paper," but so are the suburbs and the communities full of houses that all look the same, containing the cookie-cutter lives of people who grew up accepting "the whole allure of a life rightly lived." There probably isn't anyone alive who hasn't found themselves, at some point, asking these questions and it helps sometimes, when you feel like you're struggling to decipher the point to existence, to read a book like this.

I liked it a lot, but I'm kind of struggling to put into words as to why. I think it may be one of those books that you read fast and then put down for a few months while it simmers away in the back of your head until you pick it up again and go Oh I Get This Now. This Is All So True And etc. etc. One part I really liked was the idea that "the metaphors have implications." The way we decide to perceive things does affect the world and the way things are. The whole book felt full of little moments like this; tiny sentences of wisdom, in between the drama and humour and car crashes, after-proms and midnight break-ins of the plot. Drunken chats in empty bathtubs at parties with people you had never spoken to before. Falling asleep on long drives. Maps on bedroom walls, highlighted bits in books, messages to your friends, lying to parents, sneaking out and back in again. All of these things are so recognizable as parts of growing up: everyone can find a memory of their teenage years in here.
Much of Paper Towns is structured around this incomprehensible poem by Walt Whitman. I searched through the internet for a bit and eventually I found one quote that I liked from part of Song Of Myself: "My words itch at your ears till you understand them." I might have to let Paper Towns itch at my ears for a while until I get it but I would still definitely recommend reading it. I think its quite rare for books aimed at teenagers and young adults to be about stuff that actually means something. It can feel like if you want to read something that understands the questions that are nagging at you about life or the future or whatever your choices are limited to books written in the past. Obviously there's nothing wrong with this, but equally it would be wrong to limit philosophical questioning and stuff to *old* books. We should be doing it today as well, because sometimes it feels like there's more and more options and more and more to question than ever.

Okay I'm done. If you've read Paper Towns or any other John Green books, what did you think?

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