Sunday, 6 December 2015

Till Dawn Do Us Part

Al bought me copy of 'Paper Towns' by John Green to comfort me in my houseboundness and it was lovely.

SPOILER ALERT
I just want to be sure that people who haven't read it yet avoid any info that will ruin the story disclosure. I was alternately convinced our hero Margo was dead and then alive and then dead and then ... I have not read 'The Fault in our Stars' but I did review 'Looking for Alaska' a few years ago, and it has a similar focus on a quirky female character on whom the male lead has a crush, and who's presence and then absence forms the structure of the book. Q (Quentin), Radar and Ben are on the verge of graduating from high school, living in their secluded little world of video games and band practice and somehow managing to say out of the path of the resident bully. Radar has a nicely understated relationship with a girl called Angela, Ben is searching frantically for a 'honeybunny' to take to prom and Q just longs for the lost days of his childhood when Margo Roth Spiegelman was his best friend. As the end of their school career approaches they are all anticipation of their new adult lives, college and the future, but Margo is about to throw a spanner in the works. After she discovers her boyfriend's infidelity she enlists Q's help for a wild night of revenge on the people who have wronged her, and just when he thinks they may have reforged their former bond she vanishes. What ensues is a race to make sense of the clues she appears to have left behind. So does Margo want to be found or not?

Lovely things about the book: Q struggling to understand Walt Whitman, that inspired me to give it another go. Friendships between young people and their culture generally being presented in a positive, non-judgemental way, and the adults all being somewhat extraneous to the story. The 'dork' hits it off with the 'super hot girl' and they both defy their stereotypes, grow as characters and get to know each other as real people. Some lovely backhand comments about the schooling system, it's always good when authors see through the crap. The road trip, because who doesn't love a road trip. The suspense. The avoidance of a clichéd ending. 

Ben understanding Lacey:
"I'm just saying that it was easy for me to like Lacey before. It's easy to like someone from a distance. But when she stopped being this amazing unattainable thing or whatever, and started being, like, just a regular girl with a weird relationship with food and frequent crankiness who's kinda bossy - then I had to basically start liking a whole different person." (p.267)

Q in school:
"I spent the next three hours in classrooms, trying not to look at the clocks above various blackboards, and then looking at the clocks, and then being amazed that only a few minutes had passed since I had last looked at the clock. I'd had nearly four years of experience looking at these clocks, but their sluggishness never ceased to surprise. If I am ever told that I have one day to live, I will head straight to the hallowed halls of Winter Park High School, where a day has been known to last a thousand years." (p.18)

I liked Margo, because she's not taken in by her own hype:
"Q, you're going to go to Duke. You're going to be a very successful lawyer-or-something and get married and have babies and live your whole little life, and then you're going to die, and in your last moments, when you're choking on your own bile in the nursing home, you'll say to yourself: 'Well, I wasted my whole goddamned life, but at least I broke into SeaWorld with Margo Roth Spiegelman my senior year of high school. At least I carpe'd that one diem." (p.70)

because a few pages later:
"Margo didn't respond. She was staring past me, her eyes squinting almost closed. 'I felt this exact same way when I got into Universal Studios,' she said after a moment. 'It's kind of cool and everything, but there's nothing much to see. The rides aren't working. Everything cool is locked up. Most of the animals are put in different tanks at night.' She turned her head and appraised the SeaWorld we could see. 'I guess the pleasure isn't being inside.'
'What's the pleasure then?' I asked.
'Planning, I guess. I don't know. Doing stuff never feels as good as you hope it will feel.' " (p.77)

Here Q empties his locker on the last school day, and seems to get some idea of what Margo is trying to tell him:
"All along, I kept thinking, I will never do this again, I will never be here again, this will never be my locker again, Radar and I will never write notes in calculus again, I will never see Margo across the hall again. This was the first time in my life that so many things would never happen again.
...
As paralysing and upsetting as all the never agains were, the final leaving felt perfect. Pure. The most distilled possible form of liberation. Everything that mattered except one lousy picture was in the trash, but it felt so great. I started jogging, wanting to put even more distance between myself and school.
It is so hard to leave - until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamn thing in the world.
As I ran, I felt myself for the first time becoming like Margo. I knew: she is not in Orlando. She is not in Florida. Leaving feels too good, once you leave. If I'd been in a car, and not on foot, I might have kept going, too. She was gone and not coming back for graduation or anything else. I felt sure of that now.
I leave, and the leaving is so exhilarating I know I can never go back. But what then? Do I just keep leaving places, and leaving them, and leaving them, tramping a perpetual journey?
Ben and Radar drove past me a quarter of a mile from Jefferson Park, and Ben brought RHAPAW to a screeching halt right on Lakemont in spite of traffic everywhere, and I ran up to the car and got in. They wanted to play Resurrection at my house, but I had to tell them no, because I was closer that I'd ever been." (p228-9)

I have never read a book where they talked so much about needing to pee, and it was fecking hysterical. It worked perfectly as a distraction from talking about where they were going too much, acting (weirdly) to both lessen and heighten the tension of the situation. John Green always does exactly what he says on the tin, rely on him for a bloody good story.

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