The double cover for the novel.
My miracle was that I ended up living next to Margo Roth Spiegelman.
— Quentin 'Q' Jacobsen ''
A young adult novel written by John Green
High school senior Quentin Jacobsen (known to his friends as "Q") has been in love with his neighbor, the mysterious, beautiful, and adventuresome Margo Roth Spiegelman for as long as he can remember. So when one night she appears at his window to ask for his help in playing revenge pranks, he can't refuse. The two travel to Margo's ex-friend Becca's house, where Margo's boyfriend is cheating on her, along with her boyfriend's house, the house of an old bully, and Sea World, where Margo and Q dance together to an old song playing on the loudspeaker. At the end of the night, Margo leaves Q with a hug and says "I. Will. Miss. Hanging. Out. With. You."
The next day at school, Q is hardly surprised that Margo isn't there. But when no one sees her for days, Q and his friends Radar and Ben begin searching for the clues Margo had apparently left for Q, including a poster of Woody Guthrie on her window, parts of the poem "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman
, and an abandoned mini-mall where she wrote stories from her childhood and explored, with the help of Margo's best friend, Lacey. Using these clues, they must attempt to find the riddle wrapped in an enigma
that is Margo Roth Spiegelman.
Features these tropes:
- Affectionate Parody: Omnictionary is an online encyclopedia which attempts to be a go-to source for everything but tends to suffer from narrow interest pools and vandalism, which should put one in mind of a certain website that we are not. Similarly, Radar is an obvious Affectionate Parody of the sort of people who use said site.
- Alpha Bitch: Becca.
- Arc Words: "paper towns"
- Bastard Boyfriend: Jase. He cheats on Margo with Becca... only to later call out Margo's name during sex with Becca.
- Bittersweet Ending: Margo's alive, Q understands her much better now although still not perfectly, and they even kiss but she's leaving, and although they make plans to see each other again, it's clear their lives are taking them in different directions.
- Black Best Friend: Radar to Q, although he has a white best friend, too.
- Black and Nerdy: Radar
- Bottomless Bladder: Partially subverted. Every character urinates at least once on the 24-hour Road Trip, but nobody mentions ever having to poop.
- Casanova Wannabe: Ben
- Collector of the Strange: "IT'S NOT MY FAULT THAT MY PARENTS OWN THE WORLD'S LARGEST COLLECTION OF BLACK SANTAS!"
- Defictionalization: In-universe - the "paper town" of Agloe, included as a copyright trap, was made into a general store,
- Also, in real universe. Agloe was based on a real "paper town."
- Omnictionary is a real site now but is really more focused on the activities and history of Nerdfighteria.
- Did Not Get the Girl
- Disproportionate Retribution: Margo's revenge on Lacey, especially considering the reason for her revenge turned out to be baseless.
- Expy: Q is essentially Miles from Looking for Alaska, and Margo has a fair bit in common with the titular character of the same book.
- Going Commando: The boys all make a deal to do this at graduation. (Not just a lack of underwear, but nothing but the gown.)
- Hidden Depths: Margo and Lacey. This whole book was about making an effort to get to really know someone.
- Hot Mom: Q's mom. At least, according to Ben.
- Hypocritical Humor: At one point Q notes, "I wanted to berate Ben for using chat-speak IRL."
- Jerkass: Becca, Jase, Chuck, and several other members of the popular crowd.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ben.
- Le Parkour: Margo does this a lot, in addition to urban exploring.
- Literal Metaphor: Margo leaves a clue by highlighting a line from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself": "Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!" The gang considers various metaphorical meanings, but the actual clue meant that there was another clue hidden inside one of Q's door hinges.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Margo, in spades. Except she's a Deconstruction, since a key point is Q's realization that "She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl." (pg 199, hardcover.)
- Still, even as a bit of a deconstruction, she did re-enter Q's life with the express purpose of making him more interesting and life-seizing.
- The author's brother even mentions this in a song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MKbMWOBlWA
- The song is a bit of a Defictionalization, too. (And a tribute to the awesomeness of Nerdfighters.)
- Nerds Are Sexy: Lacey who is so pretty she could have virtually any boy in school goes for geeky Ben. At the end of the book Margo reveals she has feelings for Q
- Noodle Implements: "I'm not sure what you're supposed to say to the checkout woman at twelve-thirty in the morning when you put thirteen pounds of catfish, Veet, the fat-daddy-size tub of Vaseline, a six-pack of Mountain Dew, a can of blue spray paint, and a dozen tulips on the conveyor belt..." You do find out what they're for, though.
- Potty Emergency: Ben ends up peeing into a beer bottle because the gang can't afford to stop their car for bathroom breaks while trying to reach Agloe in time.
- Power Trio: Quentin, Radar, and Ben, although later they're joined by Lacey.
- You could say they're a Freudian Trio as well, being Ego, Superego and Id, respectively.
- The Rashomon: Throughout the whole book, we see Margo and Q's relationship and history through Q's point of view, and towards the end we get Margo's side.
- Also, pretty much everybody's view of Margo and her escape is different, right down to the way they expect the situation to resolve itself. Ben thinks she's actually hiding out in Central Florida, playing them for fools. Radar thinks she's gone on a road trip and will return on the day of graduation. Quentin is afraid she's dead.
- Shout Out: Most of Margo's bread crumb trail consists of them.
- As well as Q's English teacher, Dr. Holden.
- Sleep Cute: Q pictures doing this, but it doesn't actually happen. Until the last chapter, that is.
- Something That Begins with "Boring": Q, Ben, Radar, and Lacy play metaphysical eye spy on the road trip. They're definitely bored, but the "metaphysical" part stops it from being trivial.
- Spoiled Sweet: Lacey.
- Stepford Smiler: Margo, although even this is more complicated than it usually is.
- Token Minority: Radar; he even lampshades this by referring to himself as the "token black friend" of the group.
- There Was A Door: Q and his friends end up breaking through the boarded-up windows of the mini-mall when they couldn't get the doors open by pulling. Later on, Q realizes the doors open inwards and finds that they weren't locked at all.
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Margo uses Random capitalization Because "the rules of Capitalization are so Unfair to the Words in the middle."
- With Friends Like These: What drives Margo to leave.
- Partially subverted. Becca is indeed awful, but Lacey proves herself loyal.