From Page to Screen: Paper Towns by John Green
To many people, John Green can do no wrong. His books are bestsellers, and almost all of them have been optioned for film (or are films already). My first introduction to John Green was with The Fault in Our Stars. While there were some flaws with that book, I overall loved it. Case in point: I read it in one day. So my expectations were high for his three other books: Looking for Alaska (optioned; potentially out in 2016), Paper Towns (obviously this is out on DVD now), and An Abundance of Katherines (optioned, but no plans to film). My focus, now though, is on Paper Towns.
As a teen novel, Paper Towns is solid. The main character, Quentin (or Q as he’s called), is a shy high school senior. He’s had an unrequited crush on his once-childhood friend, Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo is a vivacious, curvy Jewish girl in their small Florida town. Where Q is timid, Margo is bold. Where Q is kind of nerdy, Margo is popular. Q has two good friends, Margo has several…AND a jock boyfriend. In short, Q is the every boy. He’s average. Until one night when Margo asks him for help in getting back at her so-called friends and ex, and he becomes bold and has fun and let’s go of some inhibitions.
Then, Margo disappears, and Q decides that she’s left clues for him to follow so he can find her. He and his friends go on a quest eventually leading into a road trip to find Margo. The good things about this book are the relatable high school characters and the element of mystery. Will Q find all the clues? What are the clues? Will he find Margo? Those kept me turning the pages. Q, though, was kind of frustrating. His whole feeling of self-worth seemed to be wrapped up in his fantasy Margo, rather than seeing her for what she actually is. I know that was his quest in the book—finding Margo and seeing people (himself included) for what they really are—but, it was hard to emotionally connect to him.
When casting was announced for the movie, I was conflicted. Nat Wolff was the perfect choice for Q. Cara Delevingne, on the other hand, was NOT Margo. She was not a curvy, curly-dark-haired vivacious girl. She was too-cool-for-school Margo. My fears were confirmed when I watched the movie. She did not have a spark that was present in the book.
The best part of the movie were Q’s friends Ben and Radar. Ben’s antics had me laughing out loud and shaking my head with his sheer ridiculousness. Those two had some heart. Q’s quest, in the film, was more annoying in the film. His sheer drive and selfishness in it was sometimes overpowering. Somehow, in the book, it was easier to swallow. I was not rooting for Q to find Margo like I was in the book.
Overall, though, the messaging of Green’s story does make the transition from page to screen. It is a message that everyone should take to heart. You should be yourself and accept others for who they are rather than who you want them to be.