Early the next morning, Quentin tells Radar about his new hypothesis — that the holes in the wall at the strip mall show the place where a map had been hung and a route plotted with thumbtacks — and they agree to go over. Quentin picks Radar up a few hours later, but they fail to convince Ben to get out of bed and join them. Driving to the strip mall, Radar talks about Angela and how strange it feels to fall in love with her so soon before leaving for different colleges.
Radar’s relationship with Angela highlights some of the strangest parts about the shift from adolescence to adulthood (or high school to college). Their maturity allows them to bond with each other in a deep way, but is also the thing that motivates them to strike out into world on their own, which will force them to be apart. Maturation both creates great experiences and ends them.
Searching through a box of maps and brochures in the strip mall, Quentin and Radar discover a map called “Five Thousand American Cities.” Quentin sees pinholes in the corners and know they have found the right map. There are rips in the map as though it has been torn off the wall, and Quentin knows Margo did not intend for them to use this as a clue. They hang it on the wall and match holes in the paper with holes in the wall. There are so many cities listed on the map, however, that most of the pins touch more than one location, making it hard to know exactly which places Margo meant to mark. They find holes near Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C., and in a small cluster of towns in upstate New York, near the Catskill Mountains. They cannot determine any precise location.
Quentin and Radar do a thorough and accurate job of recreating Margo’s marks on the map, but things beyond their control— like rips in the paper and the density of the city names — make it impossible for them to know exactly what Margo was thinking when she plotted her points. This is an image of all Quentin has learned from his search for Margo: that even patient, thoughtful efforts to access another person’s mind are sometimes met with failure.
At home, Quentin studies for his Latin final and talks with Lacey over instant messenger about Margo’s black notebook. They agree that Margo must have used it to plan her schemes and dramatic gestures. Radar and Ben sign on, and Radar announces his new theory: that Margo will return in time for graduation day, and will show up at the ceremony sitting in the audience. The four of them discuss their new and old theories about Margo while Quentin uses the map-making program Radar showed him to plot different routes between the places marked on Margo’s map.
The search for Margo was creating great tension between Quentin and his friends just a few days earlier, but now they are united in the search; they collaborate harmoniously. As Quentin has become more grounded and compassionate, the people around him have become better allies.