My Favorite Books # 6
6.) Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska by John Green
This is entry is a twofer! John Green is my favorite YA author, hands down, without a doubt, 100%. I love him and I love what he writes. His stories are intelligent, humourous, philosophical and realistic. My two favorite are similar in so many ways that they often are talked about together, even though they are stand-alone novels with different tones. Both feature average-Joe type boys in love with beautiful, intelligent, troubled, crazy girls.
Paper Towns is a road-trip adventure novel. Quentin Jacobsen has been in love with Margo Roth Spiegleman for as long as he can remember, but one night she disappears. Quentin follows the clues to track her down and discovers why she has run away. I love this book because it is funny in a very intelligent way, but also quite philosophical with the literary references to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I really identify with Quentin, who has to learn to be less analytical and more adventurous through his interactions with Margo, but also realizes that she is not who he wants or what he wants to be.
The 2006 Printz-Award winner Looking for Alaska takes place in a boarding school. Pudge befriends (and longs for) the crazy, brilliant, self-destructive, beautiful Alaska Young. Miles is fascinated in famous last words and “The Great Perhaps,” as well as Simon Bolivar’s last words, “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” Pudge learns about what it means to be alive. I am intrigued by this particular book because it has an ambiguous middle (as opposed to an ambiguous ending, I guess?) — the major event in the middle of the story is ambiguous, and I still ponder what the truth is. That’s why I like talking to others who have read it, because there is much to discuss about Ms. Alaska Young.
The writing is fabulous in both novels, and this can only be accurately conveyed through direction quotations from the novels themselves. Here are a few of my favorite passages:
Looking for Alaska
“Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’. I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”
“I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”
“We are engaged here in the most important pusuit in history. The search for meaning. What is the nature of being a person? What is the best way to go about being a person? How did we come to be, and what will become of us when we are no longer? In short: What are the rules this game, and how might we best play it?”
“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”
“I didn’t need you, you idiot. I picked you. And then you picked me back.”
“The fundamental mistake I had always made–and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make–was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.”
“You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves. I mean, I could hate you for being massively unpunctual and for never being interested in anything other than Margo Roth Spiegelman, and for, like, never asking me about how it’s going with my girlfriend – but I don’t give a shit, man, because you’re you. My parents have a shit ton of black Santas, but that’s okay. They’re them. I’m too obsessed with a reference website to answer my phone sometimes when my friends call, or my girlfriend. That’s okay, too. That’s me. You like me anyway. And I like you. You’re funny, and you’re smart, and you may show up late, but you always show up eventually.”