Paper Towns

Paper Towns


John Green

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Paper Towns Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on John Green's Paper Towns. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of John Green

John Green was raised primarily in Orlando, Florida. He graduated from Kenyon College, where he completed a double major in English and Religion Studies, in 2000. Following his graduation, Green worked as a chaplain in a children’s hospital. He was enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Divinity School at the time and intended to become an Episcopal priest, but his chaplaincy experience inspired a change of direction, and he left divinity school to pursue a career as a writer. Green published his first novel, Looking for Alaska, in 2005. He published three subsequent novels — An Abundance of Katherines (2006), Paper Towns (2008), and The Fault in Our Stars (2012)— and co-authored the novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson with David Levithan. Green collaborates with his brother, Hank, to produce biweekly videos for their popular YouTube blog. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Sarah Urist Green, and their two children.
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Other Books Related to Paper Towns

Green wrote on his website that Paper Towns was written partially as a reaction to a trend in young adult romance novels, most notably Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, in which characters seemed consistently to be “imagining their romantic others as more than human.” Other young adult novels published around the same time as Green’s novel, such as Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, and Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story share aspects of Paper Towns’ raw, often irreverent narrative style and consider some of the same themes. Green also makes reference to a number of works of literature within the text of Paper Towns itself. The most noteworthy of these is Walt Whitman’s 1855 collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, but characters also refer to and read the poetry of Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot’s “Choruses from the Rock,” Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
Key Facts about Paper Towns
  • Full Title: Paper Towns
  • When Published: October 16, 2008
  • Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
  • Setting: Orlando, Florida
  • Climax: Quentin and his friends arrive in Agloe after a frantic twenty-one hour road trip, and find Margo living in an abandoned barn.
  • Antagonist: None
  • Point of View: First Person (Quentin)

Extra Credit for Paper Towns

Myrna Mountweazel. Though the connection is never mentioned in the novel, the name of Margo’s beloved dog, Myrna Mountweazel, is an oblique reference to one of the most famous copyright traps (a way of determining if other publications had stolen your content without attribution): Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, a fictional fountain designer and photographer of rural American mailboxes, who was invented by editors of the 1975 New Columbia Encyclopedia. This fictitious woman has become so famous since the publication of the encyclopedia that featured her that “Mountweazel” is often used as a synonym for “copyright trap” — another synonym for which is the term “paper town.”

Controversial Language. In June 2015, John Green used Twitter to respond to a reader who criticized his use of the word “retarded” as an insult in Paper Towns. He wrote: “Yeah, I regret it. At the time, I thought an author’s responsibility was to reflect language as I found it, but now, eight years later, I don’t feel like a book about humanizing the other benefitted from dehumanizing language.” Green wrote his response shortly before the release of the film adaptation of Paper Towns, and his apology garnered significant media attention despite the fact that the novel itself was nearly eight years old.