As Bookish readers may know, I dragged my feet for ages to avoid the heartbreak that I knew I’d experience once I read John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars. When I finally caved, I experienced joy and sadness in such intense measure that I didn’t feel prepared for another Green book. I also reasoned that TFIOS was by far his most popular and widely considered to be his best, so once I had peaked where else was there to go? Boy, was I wrong. After going to see the Paper Towns movie adaptation, I am now itching to pick up the book. Here are seven things about the movie that made me realize I was wrong to stop my Green reading spree at TFIOS:
Reader beware: Book and movie Paper Towns spoilers ahead
It’s dry-eyed fun
I read (and cried through) The Fault in Our Stars last year and then sobbed through the film adaptation as well. I knew that John Green could break my heart into a million tiny pieces, but now I know that he can also take me on a hilarious and wild ride. The first 15 minutes of Paper Towns include a getaway car, the Nair-ing off of a guy’s eyebrow (yes, singular), and an ex-boyfriend running naked through the streets. It’s a fun sequence that feels like it could be expanded to its own film, and it sold me on the plot and the characters immediately.
Once Margo disappears, the friendship between Q, Radar, and Ben becomes the film’s central focus. Ben and Radar support Q and follow him out of state to find Margo in the name of adventure and friendship. But they continue to be true friends by questioning whether Margo will be there or not. They tell Q the truth when he doesn’t want to hear it, which is exactly when he needs to hear it most. Plus, their group rendition of the Pokemon theme song had me cackling out loud in a crowded theater—talk about #squadgoals. I’m dying for more of Ben’s quirky humor and Radar’s deadpan delivery.
It explores the destruction of gods
Not religious gods, but the gods that we create by idolizing the people around us. John Green has said that this book is about the deconstruction of the manic pixie dream girl—a stock character that exists for the purpose of helping her male counterparts without having a direction of her own. At the start, Margo fits this description to a T. To Q, she’s the mysterious girl who is always with the wrong guy. He’s in love with her without actually knowing her. By the end of the film, he realizes that he was wrong. Spoiler alert: Margo isn’t a mystery for him to solve; she’s a girl, and a troubled one at that. It’s an important lesson for Q and viewers: It’s truly “treacherous” to build someone up to be something they’re not. You need to let people be who they are.
The absence of adults
I am an avid YA reader, even though I’m a few years (okay, maybe like 10) beyond the technical recommended reading age. That said, sometimes I do have trouble relating to the characters based on where I am in my own life. The biggest issue? Parents. It can be tough for adult readers and viewers to fully relate to kids who are still completely dependent on their parents. But this isn’t an issue in Paper Towns. Personally, I know my mother would’ve grounded me for eternity if I stole her Honda Odyssey (yes, Susie and Q’s mom actually do drive the same car, #suburbanAmerica) in the middle of the night and drove it up the entire coast in search of a person who may or may not want to be found. Parents in the movie were so absent that the viewer forget that these kids really are just in high school and, while unrealistic, it made the film more relatable.
When I left the theater, the character I wanted to know more about was not Margo; it was the Dartmouth-bound Lacey. She’s a popular girl who resents that no one sees her as anything but pretty. She prefers fire-type Pokemon, and she’s worried sick over her friend Margo’s disappearance. Margo pulled a prank on Lacey before she left, convinced that Lacey had betrayed her trust. Instead of harboring anger, Lacey teams up with Q and his friends to go search for Margo. She’s the type of friend everyone deserves and one I want to read more about.
The difference between good friends and friends who don’t deserve you
Speaking of Lacey: She’s a good friend, and Margo is not. This doesn’t make Margo a bad person, just a bad friend to have. In life, it can be hard to cut people out of your life who are toxic or undeserving of your kindness. No matter how much you love someone, they still might be bad for you. I loved the moment when Ben told Lacey that he thought Margo didn’t deserve her as a friend. It’s nice to see a film reflect that it’s okay to let go of those people and how important it is to find friends you can truly rely on to look out for you.
Happiness is happening right now, not in your 5-year-plan
At the beginning of the film, Margo teases Q about his five year plan and how he’s convinced that once he ticks off all those precious boxes, he’ll finally be happy. We all forget to live in the moment sometimes and we all think that once we have more money, love, space, [insert your own desire here], we’ll finally be happy. It’s always good to have a reminder that you can find happiness in everyday life and that each day can be an adventure. To quote Margo, “That is the way you should feel your whole life.”