Quentin Jacobson, just weeks from graduation, has been in love with his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, throughout his entire life. Everyone knows Margo as an adventurous, unconventional and admired person among all of those who surround her. Quentin, on the other hand, is a good kid, ditched years earlier by his childhood best friend Margo for a cooler crowd. The two reunite when Margo shows up at his window in the middle of the night, and he agrees to follow her on an adventure of brilliant pranks and crazy endeavors. At one point, they end up at the top of a building, looking down on the city, and Margo says, "From here, you can't see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You see how fake it all is. It's not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It's a paper town. I mean, look at it, Q: look at all the cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm" (57). As the night finally comes to an end, Quentin can't help but wonder if maybe he could be part of the glorious world of Margo Roth Spiegelman.
However, the next morning, he finds that Margo has disappeared. While this is not the first time she has run away, he becomes uncertain she will return, and he and his friends are soon wrapped up in the clues Margo has left for him. He spends his last few weeks of highschool searching for the paper towns he thinks she may have run to. The chase takes Quentin through a series of new experiences during which he learns that Margo is not who he thinks she is, ultimately leading to the revelation that the true mystery is not only to uncover her whereabouts, but to find the real Margo behind the paper girl.
1. One definition of a paper town addressed in the book is a town marked on a map used as a copyright trap. If another cartographer was to produce a map with the town marked, it would be obvious that the map was plagiarized because the town actually does not exist. Why do you think Margo would want to run to a nonexistent town?
2. Margo believes that there must be strings in people, and when the last one breaks, they fall apart. The thought is very real to both her and Quentin, because they know that when people get hurt, they can feel the strings break inside them. However, Quentin says, "The strings make pain seem more fatal than it is, I think. We're not as frail as the strings would make us believe" (302). He decides that maybe people are vessels. Although they crack and it is then inevitable that they will die, there is so much time before the vessel actually breaks, and in that time the cracks actually reveal the people for who they are and allow them to see into one another. Which metaphor do you agree with?