John Green's latest, Paper Towns, was excellent. Maybe not my favorite John Green thus far (An Abundance of Katherines takes that crown, I think) but still a terrific read. His writing manages to be fresh without that green edge that I sometimes found in his earlier work; I enjoy the easy humor of it, the celebration of intelligence and curiosity, and his commitment to characters who are nerds but who resist becoming characature. What I love most about this book, which reminds me of Marc Acito characters in some respects, is the tight-knit group of friends who are believably diverse, delightfully weird, and who always have each other's backs even when they are frustrated with one another.
I was taken in by the mirror/window theme of this book, how Margo Roth Spiegelman (who I found insufferable, by the way, as she was presented) was clearly a device to explore the idea of how the way we see people is borne of constructs of our own desires. That even though the reader got to see Margo with our own eyes for part of the book, we didn't see her the way Q did (even though she was shown through his eyes) or the way her parents did, or her supposed best friends. Q became aware after a time that his perception of Margo was only one perception, that his Margo wasn't everyone else's, and probably not her own. This is an important concept to introduce and play around with, particularly in YA where the first-person narrative is prevalent.
Though there wasn't really any sex in the book, it certainly was talked about a lot, and I thought that the kids in this book seemed to share a healthy attitude about sexuality overall. Even when Margo finds out that her boyfriend and good friend are having sex behind her back, it's not a a commentary about sex-- she only gets back at them as an addendum to her escape, for kicks, and the male and female counterparts get equal punishment.
The Margo mystery kept the book compulsively readable for me, and there was a lot of cool stuff packed in such as the "Omnictionary" thread and the interesting factoids that were seamlessly integrated into the story. Still somehow this lacked the emotional connection for me that I felt in relation to Green's other books. Maybe it's because Margo came across so chilly that it was hard to care about her. But I did care about Q and his friends so who knows. I highly recommend this book.
Next week I hope to have my thoughts together enough to talk about the very awesome Graceling in a way that will do it justice.
Written material copyright 2008 Dawn A. Emerman