Take Me to Algoe. [Paper Towns, John Green]

John Green introduces us to his new gang of lovable characters, which may or may not be among my favorite, unforgettable characters with Alaska and Pudge. The usual are present: the gang of annoyingly endearing friends, the resident awkward nerd male protagonist, and the kick ass female character.

I read the introduction of Paper Towns at the back part of my copy of An Abundance of Katherines while I was on the train, on my way to work. The ring of John Green’s lead characters was evident–the female character, Margo Roth Spiegelman, has captivated our shy and awkward Quentin Jacobsen. There was an overwhelming of adoration in Q’s part, which I was quite well aware will be central in the story.

For most readers, the template characters of John Green on his novels are becoming tedious. The female character always overpowers the male character despite his usual gawky support group of friends, and the Alaska/Lindsey/Margo, instead of living to be a character of her own, at some point is reduced to be a crucial part of the development of the male protagonist. Most readers have trouble in Green’s characterization. Yes, I would have wanted for the female character to have events happening to herself, to have her story to tell, and for her story to stand alone. For most stories, the female character is the stronger character, but she always ends up as a phase in our favorite dorky guys manning up process.

On the template characters of Green, however, I encounter no problem for this. It is probably because I like routines, and the awkward guy + bad ass chick tandem always works for me. Besides, it fascinates me how many side of a geek can Green show through his books. Heee.

In terms of characterization though, the Alaska/Margo resemblance bothered me a bit, especially the part of Margo pulling pranks and being erratic, but Margo started to veer away from the shadows of Alaska in the end.

Paper Towns, the novel, tells us of the extent of Q’s [puppy] love for Margo and what he is willing to undergo or to make possible to prove of his adoration. Now, I did Google the meaning of paper town as a town that doesn’t exist, and it’s actually kind of creepy how the same [internet-based] definition as written in the book is as the same as what is found at urbandictionary.com. This makes me want to know who wrote that particular definition, or was it through this that Green found his pitch for this novel.

Margo, however, has made her own definition of Paper Town:

“Here’s what not beautiful about it: from here, you can’t see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really 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 those 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. All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store.”

What’s more amazing is her idea of paper people:

“And then you surprise me,” she says. “You had been a paper boy to me all these years–two dimensions as a character on the page and two different, but still flat dimensions as a person.”

“I looked down and thought about how I was made of paper. I was the flimsy-foldable person, not everyone else. And here’s the thing about it. People love the idea of a paper girl. They always have. And the worst thing is that I loved it, too. I cultivated it, you know?”

Now, during one of my teensy moments, I remember running to a guy buddy whining about my crush from afar, and he tells me that maybe, I was just crushing the idea of that guy, that maybe, all the information that I have had in mind of the guy, summed up into my ideal man, but is not necessarily the same guy.

It was the same as the part where Q and Margo had a row, only my guy buddy was gentler:

She’s screaming back, louder than I thought possible. “You’re not even pissed at me, Q! You’re pissed at this idea of me you keep inside your brain from where we were little!”

Ah, the disillusionment. The moment when you realize that all you were wrong all along, that you were pursuing the wrong thing. Q had his idea of Margo in his mind ever since their childhood, and since Margo kept away from Q for most years, the idea managed to stuck with Q. He had Margo, the mystery he wants to unravel, but refuses to be so, the Margo who used to play with him when they were ten, the Paper Girl Margo. The truth must have stung, especially given the lengths Q went through for chasing what was actually an illusion.

I could have laughed at Q’s mistaken love, but the things is, until the very end, I was actually questioning his love for Margo. After knowing the supposedly real  Margo, he has stuck with her, which could have been out of pride? Out of the “Ah, demmet. I went all the way here for you, might as well go along with you” urge, or could it be because he has gotten over the disillusionment and after seeing the “nekkid” Margo, no make up, no more air of mystery around her, disheveled, he still loved her?

I winced as every word of Margo slashed him, even deeper than the gash on his cheek. Still, I would have wanted Q’s love to be as genuine and as pure as that. There was a part of me that hoped that Q knew about this stubborn, bitchy, selfish Margo. I was in pain with Q when the truth that Margo knew all along hit him.

But then, unlike Looking for Alaska with much loom and darkness, Green makes us see a ray of optimism. After all the hurtful words and the shedding of paper, they buried the notebook of the Paper Margo and Paper Quentin.

Margo was ready to leave, but Green never told us if they had return to their town, or had they pursued Margo’s initial plan to carry on living as a bum. I mean, after all the disillusionment, they were to start anew. Clean slate, cause they have finally left the Paper Town of Algoe, to be real people living in real towns, with three dimensions, or who knows, with four dimensions even.

“I left the only way you can leave.
You pull your life off all at once–like a Band-aid.”

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One Response to Take Me to Algoe. [Paper Towns, John Green]

  1. Hi Tin! We’re happy to let you know that we’ve included TheBiblioPile in the list of Pinoy book blogs at Read Philippines.com. We’d love to have you join our fast growing community of Pinoy readers! 😀

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