71 pages 2 hours read

John Green

Paper Towns

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2008

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Summary and Study Guide


John Green’s Paper Towns is a coming-of-age story that follows the lives of two childhood friends, the reserved Quentin Jacobsen and the legendary Margo Roth Spiegelman. Quentin says that every human being is graced with one miracle in their lifetime. His miracle is living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman. He has spent a lifetime obsessing over her, though their friendship has cooled over the years. At the start of the novel, they are in their final weeks of high school, and when the popular Margo shows up at Quentin’s window just before midnight one night—which she has not done since they were nine-years-old—Quentin’s life is thrown into a complicated whirlwind of adventure, doubt, trust, and self-discovery. 

After an eventful night with Margo, Quentin is hopes that their relationship take a new turn and he eagerly anticipates seeing her at school. When he discovers that Margo is nowhere to be found, however, and later, when it turns out that Margo has officially disappeared, Quentin’s perception of Margo becomes entangled with the clues and plots he must follow to try and track her down. Along with his best friends, Radar and Ben, as well as Margo’s best friend, Lacey, Quentin must navigate the monarchic world of high school while juggling prom, popularity, “paper towns” and the disappearance of a close friend. Through poetry, literature, music, and sound advice, Quentin must boldly beat a path to Margo, not knowing who—or what—he will find in the process.

Paper Towns deals with the struggle to find human connection. It focuses on the ways people reach out to others, and the vital importance of seeing other people, not as one wants to see them, but as they are. Through Quentin’s search for his childhood friend, this struggle for understanding and connection is also revealed. In the end, Quentin must assess who he is himself—as well as his perceptions of those he thinks he knows well—to make the right decision in relation to love, loss and leaving home.