Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin is a high school boy who lives next door to the girl of his dreams, Margo Roth Spiegelman. But is it an imaginary person or the real girl he loves? He thinks he finally knows her when she offers to take him on an unrestrained night’s adventure of revenge, blackmail, and even breaking and entering into Sea World at night. But when Margo disappears, Quentin enlists the help of his friends and even one former friend of Margo’s who thought she knew the real girl as well. Is Quentin a paper boy living in the paper town of Orlando? Or is Margo a paper girl and is the paper town in a different state altogether? As Q pieces together the clues and is led across the state and even over state lines, he will learn what it means to be free, to be connected, and to see others through their cracks.

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Discussion Questions:

  1. Margo wondered if the man they found in the park, if “Maybe all the strings inside him broke.” She also said of herself, “every paper girl needs needs at least one string.” What did she mean by that?
  2. What did “Radar’s” parents own that made him so embarrassed to ever invite a girlfriend over?
  3. To Margo, “everything’s uglier close up.” Was she only speaking of Orlando, or the world in general as she saw it?
  4. How were Margo’s parents different in how they raised her versus how Quentin’s parents raised him, including how they reacted to her running away again? Might some of this explain why she went to such extreme measures for attention?
  5. What were some of the clues Margo left Quentin, and what were the secret hobbies/interests she never showed, even to her best friends?
  6. Standing before the abandoned mall for the first time, what did Q and the other boys learn about fear?
  7. How was Ahab’s obsession with the white whale like Q’s obsession with finding Margo? Did Quentin believe Ahab was a fool or a hero? What might Margo have said?
  8. Why did Quentin struggle with seeing people as just people, instead of classifying them as good or bad kids, and as those who deserve to be cared for? Why is “it difficult to understand that other people are human beings in the same way we are?” Why do we “idolize them as gods or dismiss them as animals”?
  9. What is “urban exploring” and how was Margo involved in it?
  10. On the road trip to get Margo, Radar and Q invent a new game called, That Guy is a Gigolo. What does the game involve, and how is it like the connectedness (or lack of it) between people in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass?
  11. What was the hilariously elaborate plan made by the four on the road trip for how many stops to make, what to eat, who grabbed what from the BP, and when to sleep? Would they have agreed with Margo that “the fun was in the planning”?
  12. Why was it “kind of great, being an idea that everybody likes” for Margo, but why couldn’t she be the idea to herself? Was anyone else a paper person?
  13. “Forever is composed of nows” Margo quoted Emily Dickinson. What were Margo’s nows? What were Quentin’s and how did they differ?
  14. Why is it we can only, according to Quentin, see each other through our cracks? What were each character’s cracks?

The Recipe

On the great, wild night of adventures, Quentin purchased Mountain Dew for fuel for himself and Margot, the last of which they drank just before “visiting Sea World” in the middle of the night. Mountain Dew has a citrus taste and is made with orange juice. The recipe is for a Mountain Dew Cupcake with Orange Lime Frosting.

Mountain Dew Cupcakes with Citrus Frosting

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp Mountain Dew
  • 2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • Zest, plus one tsp juice from two limes
  • Zest, plus one tsp juice from one large navel orange

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine the oil with the granulated sugar in mixing bowl on medium-low speed for about one minute. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
  2. To the sugar, add the sour cream, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, then the eggs, one at a time. Drop the speed to low and add the flour mixture in thirds, very slowly. Finish with the cup of Mountain Dew and allow just to combine. Scoop into paper-lined muffin tins and bake for 17-19 minutes.
  3. For the frosting, cream together the two sticks of butter in a clean bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed until they are whipped and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Drop the speed to low and carefully add 2 cups of powdered sugar, followed by the remaining teaspoon of vanilla, the lime and orange zest, and a teaspoon each of lime and orange juice.
  4. When those are combined, add the last two cups of powdered sugar, making sure to scrape down the insides of the bowl if needed. Pipe onto cupcakes that have cooled for at least twenty minutes.

Similar Reads:

Other books by John Green include the brilliant new Turtles All the Way Down, which looks inside the mind of a girl with OCD who decides to help her friend and neighbor find his missing billionaire father. Looking for Alaska is also very similar, about a college boy who falls for the most amazing girl, and tries to unravel who she is and her tragic story.

Books and authors mentioned within this book, mostly for school, were The Great GatsbyMoby Dick, “Song of Myself” from Leaves of GrassThe OutsidersJane Eyre, T. S. Eliot, The Bell Jar and Slaughterhouse Five, as well as selected poems of Emily Dickinson.

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty is also about a brilliant misfit teen who does a wildly uncharacteristic thing in order to connect with a fellow student and show she’s not who people think she is.

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews is about a teen boy trying to survive through high school and somewhat succeeding, until he is forced to befriend a girl dying of cancer.

The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd is about a sarcastic college student who takes the most unusual, creatively and intellectually challenging (and at times sinister) of art classes, and becomes obsessed with a fellow classmate, who believes herself to also be always on display and to have to live up to other’s expectations, much like Margo.

© 2017 Amanda Leitch

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