Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Favorites: And The Paper Girl's Gonna Blow Away - by Louise Tripp

"This would be the first time in my life that so many things would never happen again."  - Paper Towns

I am glad it's time for Friday Favorites, because I just finished an amazing young adult novel that's everything I want my own novels to be. It's funny, wise, adventure-packed and filled with fleshed-out, likable and very realistically human characters. Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, John Green's Paper Towns was an accidental find. I stumbled upon it, thought it sounded interesting and discovered treasure as if I'd followed a map (or clues, like the book's protagonist). While the characters are fast-talking teens with smart mouths, their observations on life, friendship and the future (among other things) are devastatingly shrewd. 

In a (really roomy) nutshell, Paper Towns tells the story of Quentin Jacobsen - a bit of a geek with his future planned out like a map ahead of him - and his obsession with a charismatic girl named Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo is the kind of girl that rumors fly around about - things like: she was a temporary circus member or she got in backstage at a concert just by sheer cunning. Quentin and Margo were childhood friends because their parents knew each other and the two shared a traumatic childhood experience (I will refrain from spoilers). Years later, they have different cliques and lives and don't talk as much. However, Quentin - known to his friends as Q - admires her from a distance and, we can infer from early conversations with friends, talks and speculates about her often. One night, near the end of senior year, Margo climbs into Q's window and talks him into driving her around for a night of antics that include getting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and breaking into amusement parks. The next day, she disappears. Running away is something Margo is known for, but this time she's eighteen and her parents decide not to look for her again. Q can't seem to help but get wrapped up in the mystery of her disappearance, though, especially when he starts finding clues to her whereabouts that seem directed at him.

That's the general plot of the book. But there are so many moments scattered throughout - of hilarity, of suspense, of wisdom - that make this YA novel defy age or genre. When a road trip ensues, you can feel the freedom of the parent-free excursion. And when Q and his friends are just talking and waxing thoughtful about Margo and her reasons for leaving, the dialogue is so true, so intense and so beautiful that you almost forget you're not reading Wallace Stegner or Raymond Carver. Toss in the references to poets (Walt Whitman and T.S. Eliot to name a couple) and poetry and, well, you had me at page one. 

At the book's close, I felt like crying or dancing like a mad man in the rain - either one would have been appropriate.

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at


  1. Oh! Adding to the book list. The library better have it! Also you titled the entry Paper Girl. I was confused until I saw the book. There was a book mentioned in some recent issue of EW that was YA and seemed really interesting. Now I have to find it!

    It's considered a coming of age tale underneath a travel memoir about a college trip. Everything Is Going to Be Great by Rachel Shukert. What sealed the deal for me was it was described as "this irreverent, profane journal of Shukert's college trip comes off like a cross between David Sedaris and Chuck Palahniuk.

  2. Yeah, it was on purpose. I usually don't title my entries the same title as the books I am writing about - instead, I make the subject line/title have something to do with the book (like my entry about the vegan cookbooks titled "Eat Your Vegetables"). But I see how that can be confusing. I wasn't too clever here.

    Ooh, that's definitely a good combination. I think I saw that review but didn't read it - I vaguely recall that book title. I'll look into it. Let me know how you like Paper Towns. And hey, when are you gonna write a post for To Grow On?!

  3. Okay, changed the title to make it maybe a little more obvious of my intention. This one is lyrics to a Guided By Voices song (which, if I am remembering correctly, is a band mentioned briefly in the book - so it's doubly appropriate). :)