Over the course of my winter vacation, I read the novel Papertown written by an American author by the name of John Green. John Green had earned praise and won the 2006 Printz Award as a writer. He is also the author of the popular novel The Fault in Our Stars which debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list in January of 2012. Because of his successes, I was inspired to read other works by him including Papertown which was adapted to film in 2015. Papertown is fiction, but if we dig deeper, it is a very genuine depiction of our real world.
Green’s two main characters, Quentin and Margo, are portrayed to us as very close. Their relationship is cultivated when they were children. Margo lived just next door to Quentin growing up, and Quentin fell in love with Margo immediately. But as the time goes by and the plot evolves, these two characters grow apart in personalities and goals. For instance, Quentin grows up into an ordinary, prim student, while Margo experiments with her adventurer spirit. Yes, she is an adventurer. In the novel, even as a young one, Margo was always covert and engaging in investigations or playing good natured tricks. Interestingly, these diversions cause these two characters to not speak for many years. It was as if they had simply walked out of each other’s lives, but undetectably, there was still a string connecting them.
This connection between Quentin and Margo came about one night when Margo climbed into Quentin’s room, and a whole night’s adventure unfolded. After that, however, just when he becomes excited about the night, Margo disappears, and leaves a chain of hints for Quentin to find out where she was. And, this is where the mystery and the story really begins! The reader is pulled in immediately to this intrigue between these characters and their possible reconnection.
Many readers might focus on the pure friendship between Quentin and Margo. But I do not. While reading, I tried to identify the most with Margo and focused much on her brave spirit. I quite liked her. Margo was born to be an adventurous person, and she consistently attempted to influence the “conventional” Quentin to encourage him to live with vigor. She may fail sometimes, since they did not talk much in high school, but it did not stop her from trying later.
Perhaps many readers would also view Margo as an irresponsible person. Perhaps most would think she should stick to going to school, ingratiating and to not focus so much on her own passions. But, in the film as compared to the novel, Margo is depicted in a way that we are encouraged to find excitement with the one we love before it’s too late the way that Margo does with Quentin. Once we understand this, it is obvious why Margo chooses to be with Quentin and then disappears. It is because she wants to save him and give him a taste of adventure, and of course she does it well! In the novel, Quentin does all he can do to find Margo. At last, Quentin changes himself and gains a lifelong treasure in Margo. He also learns so much about his own spirit.
Finally, the metaphor and image of the title Papertown makes a bit more sense once we read the novel and view the film. All humans can fall into the patterns of “paper people” who live in paper houses, who burn their futures to stay warm. All of us can be paper thin and paper frail. But, this novel motivates us to find our own, rich adventurous spirits because to have a thin, frail spirit causes emptiness and unfulfillment.