Chatterbox: Why I Dislike Paper Towns

August 28, 2015 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Books, Chatterbox, Features


Paper Towns is about a phenomenon called the manic pixie dream girl. This magical unicorn like person, a beautiful, popular girl called Margo in this case, is built up in so many people’s heads as the epitome of perfection. She’s wild, exhilarating and inspirational, and even just one night with her can change someone’s life. In other words someone who’s completely unrealistic and fake.

At it’s very core, Paper Towns hits closer to home than expected. How many geeky, awkward guys have you seen, pining over the beautiful, unattainable, popular girl, only to waste away their lives trying to impress her? How many beautiful unicorn girls have you seen taking advantage of her friend zoned minions who don’t stand a chance with her? We know it happens, we’ve seen it in real life. But that doesn’t mean I want to see it again in a fictional sense.

The fact that I didn’t like the characters made it slightly unbearable. Margo is pretentious, bitchy and completely unrealistic as the manic pixie dream girl, which is built up in people’s heads. Q is obsessive, a bad friend and pretty much creepy the way he convinces himself that he’s in love. These two archetypes were so polarised that I was not able to relate to them much, or even care about what happened to them. The side characters was what made the movie for me.

As Q grows up a geek and Margo grows up in the popular crowd, they begin to drift away. Margo avoids talking to Q for 9 years, and even partakes in teasing him with her friends. But when she doesn’t have anyone else, she pretty much uses him, before she runs away. Even though they end up having a good time, it was just so clear to me what she was really doing. And because Q is such a loser, he convinces himself that he’s about to embark on a torrid, whirlwind love affair with beautiful unicorn girl and becomes completely obsessed.

And in the meantime, he’s a complete jerk to his friends, dropping absolutely everything just to go after her. It’s meant to be romantic, but to me it was completely creepy. They spent one night together, and he’s already admitting that he loves her. No thanks.

You have no idea how much this story frustrated me. I just wanted to shake Q so hard. I predicted how the story was going to turn out. I just wanted to yell at him: SHES NOT THAT GOOD! She’s using you! Stop throwing tantrums over a love that will never work out, your friends are more important!

But nope. Like a dog to a bone, Q is just going to follow that unicorn to the bitter end, because he’s completely enamoured with her. And when they finally meet, you’ll understand just how little Q means to her – simply a means to an end.

And for what? Just to realise that sometimes you build up magical unicorns in your head? And that you should appreciate life instead of obsessively pining away at an unrequited love? Sitting through this story just made me so incredibly frustrated – it felt pointless and self explanatory. Q is just lucky that he has friends that will stick around for him because after the way he treated them – I’d be out of there.

Paper Towns ends my love affair with John Green after The Fault in Our Stars. I really didn’t like this story at all, and I’ve heard Looking for Alaska and The Abundance of Katherines isn’t much better. I’m glad I saw the movie instead of reading the book, which I’ve heard enough about to realise that it isn’t for me. This is a story that I’d love to rant about, but thankfully the movie was cute enough.

Read my Paper Towns movie review here.

Did you like Paper Towns? What did you think of the book vs movie?

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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59 responses to “Chatterbox: Why I Dislike Paper Towns

  1. As far as I'm concerned, TFiOS was actually good, Paper Towns was still entertaining, while the other two just sucked. I simply don't want to bother with JG anymore.

  2. I actually DNFed Paper Towns at around 60% because I couldn't take it anymore. I know how it ends, but I still couldn't bring myself to continue it. Not only was Margo really pretentious and ugh, but Q was annoying the heck out of me with his obsession. And then there's Ben, who keeps calling everyone "honeybunny" and I just wanted to smack him in the face. O_O
    My recent post Why Fans Make Great Friends

    • Oh man, I heard really bad things about the book from Marianne and I was just not keen at all. And I just watched the movie! Ben sounds so annoying ><

  3. I agree with you – his books have a formula: awkward guy, unattainable girl, and a quest (though in TFioS the genders are reversed).
    I did like that he made Margo a bitchy, complicated MPDG, not an idealized one.
    Curious to see what he writes next – though he's a genius at capturing that quirky-smart teen voice, I'm kind of hoping he will break the mold and do something completely different.
    My recent post Just Finished Reading: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

    • Yeah, at least Margo had her own flaws as well and not the perfect story built up in his head – but I think that was the point too, to demonstrate that no one is perfect.

  4. Romi

    You really covered this well, Jeann, and described my feelings on Paper Towns the book fairly well on point- it's actually a little bizarre how aligned our feelings are. The way Margo is revered by Q, the way he obsessed about her and she wans't even a person who I saw as being all that nice (although in the book I don't think she bullies him), was completely out of line for me, and it was kinda creepy, too. I disliked how he could never look at her for who she really was, that there was no real reason as to why he was so utterly in love with her. He just… was?
    That's not nearly enough for me. AND HE WAS CREEPY.
    But oh well. It wasn't a good read for me, and I'm sorry the film wasn't a good watch for you. Even if it made for a really on point discussion.
    My recent post Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.

  5. I haven't read anything by John Green yet, and I don't feel like reading anything by him particularly, and after reading this, Paper Towns even less!
    Kudos to you for being honest and swimming against the current, Jeann!

    • That's a shame Pili, I did like TFIOS but this one wasn't my thing and it makes me doubt the rest of the books lol. Yes it was scary hitting publish!

  6. I never watched nor read Paper Towns. It just didn't appeal to me for some reason… and no it's not because it's by John Green since I read and did like TFiOS when I got it a few years back. It just never appealed to me. The premise doesn't, the two main characters don't attract my attention at all… HOWEVER, I did learn from a friend that if you're not planning to watch the movie, at least watch it for the SIDE CHARACTERS, because they're the ones that make the movie bearable. Hahaha. It amuses and pleases me greatly that you two are of the same opinion about this!
    My recent post I Used to Be a Fabulous Picture Book Reader (My Reading History)

    • I really liked TFIOS too and went out and bought his other books, but unfortunately I just don't think I'll read them. THe side characters were great, but too bad the main focus was on Q and his obsession with Margo.

  7. I never read the book (not a fan of John Green tbh), but I did enjoy the movie despite how stupid Q is. I think the aim of the entire thing WAS to highlight that you shouldn't waste your time on such people as they're not worth it? I think it's because we're older, and have gone through more of life that we can separate ourselves from the story and see it for what it is. But the kids in highschool, which is novel is aimed at, do not have the same perspectives just yet. Absolutely agree that the maniac pixie dream girl is a bunch of bullshit though. 😛

    • Yeah, I can totally see your point, but it was weord how the ending was realistic but the manic pixie dream girl thing was not. So confusing

  8. I TOTALLY GET YOU, JEANN. I was raging throughout the whole movie and rolling my eyes while everyone else was laughing. Ooookay then.

    Q was just an idiotic doormat, letting Margo step all over him. He was such an ass to his friends because of his obsession. (That scene where they were in Agloe and he asked to be left? NO.)

    I've only watched the movie. And I hated it. T_T
    My recent post Weekly Recap #17: Goodbye, Summer Break! *Sadface*

  9. I've never read Paper Towns but I have no interest in doing so because of your point! I hate the geeky boy, popular girl trope and after reading what you said about Margo being bitchy and treating Q like dirt puts me off this book even more. That is the issue I have with John Green, his characters are incredibly unrealistic. Like when characters of that age are quoting things and being insightful, it just makes me cringe because it's so unnatural!
    My recent post Stacking the Shelves 29/8/15

  10. I have so many conflicting feelings about this book, I don't know where to start. When I read it, I loved it. But then the more I thought about it… well, I agreed with you! But then I watched the movie and I loved it all over again. But I think I have a reason! So. I hate Margo. And I hate the way Q falls all over her. But there's a ring of truth to that, isn't there? I mean, so many times, the guy (or girl) pines away for someone that has no interest in them, someone who they don't even really know as a person. And then that person can take advantage of their affection, even if they may not mean to. (There's a whole How I Met Your Mother episode about this that explains it better than I can hahha)

    But I guess the reason I liked it was twofold; The side characters, and the ending. I mean, the ending wasn't cheesy, there was truth and reality to it, I guess.

    Though I totally agree with your points, they're so valid! So I don't know if I just was okay with them in context, or if maybe I am just completely over analyzing the book 😉
    My recent post This Week At Midnight (76)

    • Hehhee you can still like it Shannon! The ending was definitely realistic but for me, the rest of the book was not which kind of defeated the purpose for me.

  11. I completely hear you 110% Jeann. I like John Green as a person and I think he's spreading a great message to teens and tweens, but his books just never click with me. :/ I felt the same way here – that Q was so blinded by his affection and obsession with Margo that he was blind to everything else around him. And what did she ever do for him, you know? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and, as always, great review / discussion! <33

  12. Jackie

    Ah, it's nice to hear an unpopular opinion voiced once in a while. Sometimes I forget that I'm not the only person in the world who doesn't think John Green is king. After reading your review, you may want to pass on An Abundance of Katherines. MPDG? Check. Hopeless romantic teenage boy, who is really just hopeless? Check. Bleh. Really though, it was the dialogue between the main character and his best friend that just really, really annoyed me. I had such a bad experience with that book that it deterred me from picking up any other John Green books. Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out because everyone adores John Green books. Oh well.
    My recent post I’m in Blogging Limbo, Which is Almost Definitely Different from a Blogging Slump

    • Yeah, I mean lately I always feel like the black sheep when it comes to popular books which is kind of good because then those who didn't like the book can relate too. I don't think I'll read any of his other books. It sounds annoying!

  13. 125Pages

    Preach! I liked the Fault in our Stars (book) enough to go find another of John Green's books. I ended up with Paper Towns and to say I was underwhelmed is being gracious. Margo is just so unlikeable. And I agree with you on Q, his disregard for his friends and family all for a girl just annoyed me.

  14. Bec Graham

    I've only just been introduced to the manic pixie dream girl trope and it's one of the more frustrating ones out there.
    I've been deliberating as to whether I should watch/read Paper Towns and I am so glad that I:
    a. Left it this long
    b. Read this.
    I'm not the biggest John Green fan. I actually preferred the movie of TFiOS to the book because the movie cut out heaps of the pretentious dialogue. And it sounds like Paper Towns is way worse.

    Thank you for ths review!

    • Yeah, looks like I'm not the only one who thought that it was frustrating. The trope is annoying! I couldn't stand it in the movie lol

  15. I don't know what it is about John Green's characters, but they seem so obnoxious (and I'm just making that assumption from the quotes I've read). They don't appeal to me and they don't seem realistic at all. I don't think I would enjoy this movie at all. All the characters seem terrible.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jeann!

  16. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    JEANN YOU'RE THE BEST. It was completely obvious to me from the very beginning that this book/movie romanticised manic pixie dream girls but everyone told me "no no just keep reading, at the end it destroys that idea" but yet, to me it never did. For me, the movie was better than the book because we're not subjected to Q's constant pining thoughts over Margo gah.

  17. Bec

    So far Paper Towns is my least favourite John Green book. The characters annoyed me a lot for the reasons you outlined. I really liked TFIOS and Looking For Alaska wasn't too bad either (better than Paper Towns at least). I haven't read An Abundance of Katherines yet but I will because I already own it but I'm sort of feeling I'm going to have the same issues with it.
    My recent post Do You Keep Your Reviews Vague?

  18. Kara Terzis

    Oh, what a shame you didn't much like this one. It's not for everyone, that's for sure, and while I enjoyed it (I think? Honestly–I read it SO long ago I don't remember much… and I suppose I didn't think it was that memorable), I completely understand the points you're making. Still haven't seen the movie here so I can't compare between mediums. I SO know what you mean by Margo though. I didn't like her. AT ALL.

    P.S SO awesome to see you're on Tumblr now!! 🙂 Welcome to the dark side. 😉
    My recent post Ten Books With Gloriously Crafted Worldbuilding || Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught Worldbuilding 101

    • Yeah Margo was horrible and so was Q unfortunately. It was all a bit frustrating for me to watch. Hehe I'm still working out Tumblr

    • Yeah, he is a very hyped and popular author but not everyone loves his work. It's just his very passionate fandom is just a little intimidating

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