Dutton Books/Penguin Group: NY, 2008.
Since Quentin and Margo were nine, Q has followed Margo's adventures from a distance. She leads the in-crowd; he hangs with band members. Until the night she recruits him to assist in her flamboyant revenge. It's not until the next day that he realizes it is also a goodbye.
Margo disappears without a word to anyone. Certain comments during the night of revenge convince Q that she may have ended her life. He finds that she has left clues for him, and he pieces together all the widespread and random evidence in his quest to find her, dragging along his friends and one of Margo's. The clues are more than just about her whereabouts; they are regarding her as a person. Q spends the month before graduation reevaluating the Margo of whom he was enamored instead of enjoying and preparing for the end of high school.
I read much praise of John Green and Paper Towns last year from the YA blogging community. This is the first John Green book I've read. Some of the descriptions I read discouraged me from reading them, despite the appealing titles.
I wasn't much impressed with the beginning of this book. The nine-year-old part is fine, but the night of revenge is a bit juvenile, as are some of the behaviors of other students. Of course, that is one of the points in the book. During the quest to find Margo, literally and as a person, the story moves in other directions. The poetry and philosophical discussion was a surprise after the garbage of high school. Margo's clues involve her broad music collection and Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Q spends time comparing his situation to Whitman's words and extrapolates to fit his experience. Following the clues, Q doesn't know, but he is fulfilling Margo's plan for him.
Midway through the book I started to really enjoy the story. Quentin is a good character, and I particularly liked the way he made an impact on everyone else in the story without intending to do so (maybe not his friend Radar so much, who is enough of a person on his own). I'm also a sucker for philosophical conversation. It gets me every time, but this part of the book is excellent. Also, Margo's escape plan is more appealing than her revenge. She has through her life cultivated a facade that she thinks is more attractive than herself. In other words, she hasn't cultivated her true self, but makes a promising start in her escape.
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