Like many other women in the world, I was captivated by John Greene’s novel “The Fault in Our Stars”. I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved the pain it demanded me to feel. Despite what neigh-sayers may say, it’s a beautiful book.
After I finished it, I promptly bought another of Green’s works, “Looking for Alaska” and put in on my bookshelf. As much as I hate to admit it, that’s exactly where the book has been sitting for over two years—just collecting dust between my Gillian Flynn novels and the classics. I kind of forgot I had it honestly. So many other books have come into my life.
One of these other books, was “Paper Towns” another John Green book. After seeing the previews pretty much nonstop for months for the feature film, I really wanted to read it. When I received it as a gift, I read it in about a day. A couple weeks later, I found myself alone in a movie theater watching it on the big screen.
“Paper Towns” is about Quentin “Q” Jacobsen, a high school senior looking forward to his looming graduation. Throughout his entire life, one thing has been a constant—his love for Margo Roth Spiegelman. As children, the two of them were inseparable until in the park one night they discovered the body of a man who had committed suicide. After that insane encounter, the two grew apart. Margo moved on with her life making new friends and becoming the most infamous girl in the entire school. Q, however, held on to his love for the girl who lived on his street. He always held out hope that they would reunite.
Sure enough, only a couple weeks until graduation, she shows up in his bedroom needing him to be her accomplice in a night of mayhem gaining revenge on all the folks who had done Margo wrong. When the night ends, Q feels like his life is finally coming together and he’s finally gotten the attention of the girl he loves, but then Margo disappears. Q and his friends go on an epic journey to find Margo based on clues she left behind.
From the first page, I enjoyed “Paper Towns”. It is a fun read, and sometimes, that’s all you need a book to be. Don’t get me wrong, it is a coming-of-age story that I’m sure most teens can relate to in some ways. Even as an adult, there were elements I could relate to.
After reading “Paper Towns” I realized I still had that other John Green book lying around somewhere. With only a little bit of digging, I found it and began reading. “Looking for Alaska” was actually Green’s first novel, and it received the Michael L Printz award from the American Library Association in 2006—a prestigious award given to the best Young Adult book written each year.
Much like “Paper Towns”, “Looking for Alaska” is told in the perspective a teenage misfit boy. In this story, he is a high school junior named Miles “Pudge” Halter attending a boarding school by his own choice in Alabama. Miles is loner who is oddly obsessed with knowing famous people’s last words.
His first year at the school, he encounters a wide range of different personalities and becomes friends with the most exciting personality there—Alaska Young. Despite the fact that Alaska is in a committed relationship, Miles falls quickly in love with her. He also becomes best friends with his roommate Chip Martin, who is affectionately called The Colonel. The three of them become a crew of pranksters taking out their plots on other kids in the school. As they become closer, Pudge falls more and more in love with Alaska. Then something insane happens, and they are left picking up the pieces of an impossible puzzle.
These two books have a lot of similarities that are pretty undeniable. Both Pudge and Q are quiet unpopular outsiders, whereas Alaska and Margo are both popular free spirits. While both books are in a way about a boy’s great love for a girl, they focus more on the boy’s friendships with a core group of other misfits. In the end of both books, the friends are brought together for a secret mission given to them by the women they loved.
These books aren’t exactly the same, but there are a lot of parallels I can’t really ignore. Regardless of that, though, I did enjoy reading both books. “Looking for Alaska” is definitely the darker of the two, and “Paper Towns” has a little more comedy. In my opinion, “Paper Towns” is the better read, but there are likeable characteristics in both.
John Green is a great writer, and he definitely knows his niche. Despite the fact he is a 30-something year old man, he has a way of getting into the minds of teenagers and knowing exactly how to portray them. Few young adult novels come across as organically as John Green novels do.
If you’re looking for fun and easy reads with just a little bit of drama, either one of these should do the trick. While I think “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the best Young Adult book ever written, I do merit these as being pretty decent too.