The next day, Quentin calls Ben. He wants to tell Ben about his discoveries in the strip mall the night before, but Ben is extremely hung over and hangs up on him. Quentin is furious. He tells himself Ben never cared about their friendship, and that in all the years they have known each other, Ben has always been biding his time waiting for someone cooler to come along. He leaves Ben a message on his cell phone, calling him a “shitbag.”
Quentin is not only frustrated with Ben’s lack of interest in Margo — or his unwillingness to return the kindness Quentin showed in picking him up from the after-prom party. He also feels hurt by the idea that Ben would prefer the friendship of the popular kids to his. As they face changes in their lives and in their friendship, Quentin is becoming defensive.
After leaving his message to Ben, Quentin calls Radar. Radar arrives at Quentin’s house a few minutes later, and Quentin describes the things he found in the strip mall. Radar examines one of the travel books Quentin has brought back, and notes that the reader marked locations in Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and California. Radar uses an online map-making program to plot the locations and the possible routes a person could drive that would pass through all of them. He prints out a map of the United States for Quentin, who hangs it on the wall and plots the different points with thumbtacks.
The cities marked in the travel book are unconventional road trip destinations, and Margo’s motivation for visiting them is unclear — in fact, Quentin cannot even be sure the book belonged to her. Once again, Quentin has information about Margo, but does not know her well enough to understand it. A cross-country road trip fits his old image of Margo as a free-spirited adventurer — but that is only one of many possible versions of her.
Radar mentions he been monitoring Omnictionary for activity from Margo’s account and tracking the IP addresses of people who search for the phrase “paper towns.” Quentin is surprised to learn that Radar has been working so hard to find Margo.
Quentin’s investigation has been seeming more and more like a solo effort: he drives to pseudovisions alone and stays alone in the strip mall. Radar reminds him here that he has not been alone at all, and that he has failed to notice or understand the many subtle ways his friends are supporting him.
Radar suggests inviting Ben to brainstorm and play video games. When Quentin refuses, Radar suggests he should be more accepting of other people. Quentin is as flawed as Ben, Radar reminds him: he is always late for things, he is never interested in anything but Margo, and he never asks Radar how things are going with Angela. Still, he is a worthwhile friend. Radar insists Quentin and Ben both need to stop expecting the other to think and feel the same way they do. Quentin agrees to call Ben, who agrees to come over.
Radar advocates not only for greater understanding when a person reveals their flaws, but for greater appreciation of the positive things a person offers despite their flaws. Everyone can seem unworthy if the person perceiving them is not willing to be compassionate with them; Radar encourages Quentin to choose compassion. In this respect, he challenges Margo’s “paper people” idea, suggesting that people should be given the benefit of the doubt rather than dismissed, that no one is in fact two-dimensional.
Waiting for Ben to arrive, Quentin asks Radar about Angela. Radar says things are good between them, that they did not have sex on prom night, and that they had their first fight that morning over breakfast at the Waffle House — Angela thinks his parents’ black Santa collection is fantastic, and Radar was indignant. Ben arrives, and thanks Quentin for driving him home the night before.
Quentin has largely refused to participate in conversation about ordinary things (such as Radar’s love life) because they did not seem as important as the problems he was facing. In asking Radar about Angela, he shows greater humility and a desire to be a better friend.