Alas, the movie was about to be shown in a week when I finally mustered the diligence to read it. And I was quite delighted by the book, delighted enough to say it has actually become my favorite among Green's novels. The story didn't rely much on the melodrama (or lack) of star-crossed teenagers with a disease or someone with a of dating only girls named Katherine (which rather got tiring fast). This one's about a guy infatuated with his childhood friend, who after not being friends in high school, spent a night with her executing a series of pranks against her cheating boyfriend and other people she felt have wronged her, goes looking for her as she went missing the next day.
Without the threat of going cheesy as what The Fault in Our Stars may have led Green to, Paper Towns comes out as more genuine and less affected. Gus and Hazel Grace, by virtue of their love story and disease, felt forced in a way that I felt that they needed to act as quickly as possible before their ill-fated love story ends. The trip to Amsterdam, the kissing in Anne Frank's house, the search for the difficult author all felt too grand. Good for YA audience, a tad melodramatic and staged for regular folk.
On the other hand, Paper Towns felt more organic, with Q and Margo, although waxing philosophical through Walt Whitman and in the latter conversations, felt more authentic. That's who they are - an obsessed teenager in love with someone he idealized and an attention whore who thinks she's too cool for school, yet actually wanted to be found. That I wanted to slap Q in the middle of his obsessive search for Margo and Margo's lame excuse of not wanting to be found convinced me that these characters have more depth than the highly romanticized Hazel Grace and Gus.
A lot of people may take the opposite view and see Paper Towns to be not as successful as The Fault in Our Stars because of a lack of grandness and heartstring-pulling found in the latter, but for me, it is one of the book's plus points. Q and his friends, in trying to find the missing Margo, became more fleshed out characters I didn't get the same feeling with The Fault in Our Stars, whose story had in fact fewer characters, which I thought should have provided Green more room to make them more real. But then, cancer and love story got in the way.
Also, the hanging ending may cause people to be tepid in their appreciation of the book, but it also worked, at least for me.
What I didn't like about the book were the chapters on Q's stakeouts in abandoned subdivisions. They dragged the narration and went on and on and on. It snapped me out of the Oralndo world Green created with these characters because they were just so boring to read. And when you bore a reader, you kind of lose him/her. I only got back because I wanted to finish the book, any book, and didn't want to bail out on it when I have already invested some time with the first chapters . Otherwise, I would have stopped. Well played, Green.
It has been three years since John Green's last book, and I hope he releases a new one soon, which I hope will be better than Paper Towns. The bar set by Paper Towns isn't that high, so I could only hope for better from him.