The Prydain Project

Thirty years after first devouring Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books, I'm rereading them to see if the magic is still there. If you've arrived at this blog because you loved Prydain as a kid, I hope you’ll enjoy the chance to revisit it along with me. To read the recaps in order, start here: "The Book of Three," Chapter 1

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What I’m Reading: Paper Towns

As I take a brief hiatus from my Prydain recaps, reading John Green's “Paper Towns” seemed like a no-brainer, given my love for “The Fault in Our Stars,” plus the recent media coverage of the movie adaptation that drew me in with its high-school-road-trip-themed trailer. And I learned from watching the infamous Cara Delevingne interview that the book has been included on school reading lists, so I hoped that I’d not only enjoy it but get some exposure to what “these kids today” are reading.

I did enjoy it; I found the narrator, Quentin, very engaging, and I really liked how he and his friends are characterized through dialogue (especially that of Ben, the dorky yet social-climbing best friend who uses phrases like “bagging that honeybunny” to mean hooking up with a girl). But parts of it didn’t work for me. The book’s theme is that it’s dangerous to see a person as an idea or an ideal; it’s important to see people as complete human beings, nuanced and flawed. This theme is stated directly, by Quentin, several times in the book. The problem is, I didn’t feel it was borne out by the text. The person Quentin idealizes is his neighbor, Margo, with whom he’s in love. The first part of the book details a wild adventure the two of them go on. The rest is about Quentin trying to find Margo after she vanishes, via a series of clues she’s left behind. I didn’t like Margo as a character – I found her selfish and mean, and I had trouble understanding what Quentin sees in her, other than her physical beauty. If the story had been told from Margo’s point of view instead, it might have been more effective in terms of making her relatable. The heroine of my current read, Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” is also a complicated character: she’s stubborn, self-destructive, and difficult to sympathize with. But because it’s a first-person narrative, I’m in her head, so I find myself rooting for her despite myself.

If you’ve read “Paper Towns,” I’m dying to know: Did you like Margo? Did you find the repeated statements of the theme a little much? Was my bar just set too high from “The Fault in Our Stars”? Let me know in the comments!

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