Paper Towns

January 9, 2009

papertowns-rightJohn Green’s latest and greatest novel. After an inspiring debut and a less relatable second novel, Paper Towns was a very pleasant surprise. It is definitely the best young adult book I’ve read this year; and it will be interesting to see if another will take its place as the year unfolds.

In the first part, the book takes us on a dizzying to-do list of adventures (I tend to like novels that contain lists). It promises to be a page-turner with tons of fun and no  deep moral. But the second part makes a character disappear, veering away from such a prediction completely. There is a lot of meditation on understanding other people, and in particular, on misimagining others by seeing them as idea[l]s.

The hunt for clues left by the missing person continues almost until the end, making this another novel for whose answer-in-the-lack-of-answers ending I feared. Although the characters do finally reunite, the message Green sends out is not one that inspires comfort. Basically, he puts Maugham’s tower of brass into words intelligible to the impatient Google generation. True and complete understanding between people is impossible; you cannot be someone else.

The novel ends with a brilliant metaphor about human suffering and understanding.

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Looking for Alaska

July 27, 2008

by John Green.

A novel which made me wonder about so many things.

Miles “Pudge” Halter, 16, decides to leave his friendless and uneventful home town and seek the Great Perhaps at an out-of-state boarding school. There he meets Chip “The Colonel”, Alaska, and Takumi, and their undying love for mischief soon introduces him to the world of smoking, drinking, and pranking. Miles notices:

The phrase booze and mischief left me worrying I’d stumbled into what my mother referred to as “the wrong crowd”; but for the wrong crowd, they both seemed awfully smart.

It’s interesting to see how Miles becomes a different person (in many ways) by associating himself with these people. But this is just the setup scene for what is about to happen, and it will leave nobody unaffected.

This is about as much as I can tell you without spoiling your reading pleasure. So you’d better stop here and read the book.

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