Quentin spends that afternoon and the next day trying to uncover some new insight into Margo’s plan. On the morning of graduation, his parents present him with a gift: a car of his own. Quentin is ecstatic, although some of his excitement fades when he learns that the new car is a minivan. (His parents incorrectly assumed that Quentin loved his mother’s minivan.) His parents leave for the high school, intending to meet him at the graduation ceremony.
Having his own car represents independence for Quentin, and his enthusiasm shows how he has craved that independence. That his parents would choose to give Quentin a minivan is a comic example of the kind of benevolent misunderstandings that Quentin has dealt with time and again throughout his journey to find Margo. While many such misunderstandings are serious and dehumanizing, the Jacobsens’ flop shows that they can also be a natural part of life, and should be accepted.
Quentin tells Radar about the minivan. He agrees to let Radar store a cooler full of beer in the trunk, so they can take it to Lacey’s graduation party that night. In the shower, it occurs to him that he can go looking for Margo now, tracking her to the cities on her map. He thinks that she cannot have left to wander from place to place forever, because the exhilaration of leaving is partly a product of attachment — he knows now that the thing that makes leaving feel good is the sadness of leaving behind precious connections and memories.
Quentin’s new, empathetic understanding of Margo helps him see beyond the things she might have hated about Orlando, to the things she might have loved about it. As he did in Holly Meadows, when he feared he would find her body under the oak tree, Quentin sees the inextricable connections between loving something and losing it — and he sees how willingly letting a loved thing go can feel freeing, because the prospect of losing it can no longer be devastating once the loved thing has been surrendered.
After getting out of the shower, Quentin turns on the program Radar created a few days earlier, that collects the first sentences of all the articles related to a broad topic. He searches an area code near the Catskills. Among the results that appear, an article on the village of Agloe, New York catches his attention. Agloe, he reads, is a fictitious town created by cartographers from the Esso company and inserted into maps as a tool to guard their work against plagiarism by other mapmakers —also known as a copyright trap, or a paper town. Though the town did not really exist when it first appeared on a map, the article says that a resident of the area built “The Agloe General Store” at the location where it was supposed to exist, thus making the fictitious town a real place.
Agloe is an odd example of a paper town: while most paper towns exist only in maps, and serve their function only as long as they remain limited to the world of the map, Agloe has transcended its “paper town” status and become real. Quentin’s project has been to do the same thing for Margo, eradicating the fictional version of her from his mind and building a new, real version of her to replace it.
The article claims Agloe has a population of zero, but in the comments section, Quentin discovers a recent message from an anonymous user, which claims that there will, in fact, be one person living in Agloe until noon on May 29. Quentin recognizes Margo’s unusual capitalization: words in the middle of the sentence are capitalized, just as they were on the shopping list she once gave him. He is certain the comment is hers.
Margo is still recognizable by some of her signature quirks: her odd capitalization and her flair for drama, embodied in her clever but unnecessary announcement. Despite his much-improved understanding of Margo, Quentin still relies on her persona to identify her. To some extent, her persona is still the real her — just an incomplete version of her.
Quentin discovers online that driving from Orlando to Agloe will take 19 hours and four minutes. He has 21 hours and 45 minutes until, according to the comment, Margo is scheduled to leave Agloe. He calls Radar and Ben, who are at school waiting for graduation to begin. Radar is amazed by what Quentin tells him, but assures Quentin that the drive to Agloe will take him at least 23 hours when he accounts for traffic. Quentin realizes that he has to leave immediately.
Quentin’s weeks of searching for Margo have been a slow parade of disappointments, each breakthrough coming with great difficulty and then leading nowhere. Now that he seems to have found her, everything moves swiftly, and immediate action is necessary. Quentin has no time to second guess himself or allow fear to inform his decision — he acts boldly, as Margo taught him.
Radar and Ben convince Quentin to stop by the school on his way out of town, to explain to his parents what is happening. He does so, hastily. When he returns to his car, Quentin finds Ben, Radar, and Lacey waiting for him. They have decided to skip graduation as well, and go with him to Agloe.
In joining Quentin on his trip (and missing their graduation in the process), Radar, Lacey, and Ben show their loyalty to Quentin, even more than their investment in finding Margo. Unlike Margo, Quentin will not have to make this long journey alone. Also worth noting as that Quentin tells his parents about their road trip. First, this marks his relationship to his parents as very different from that between Margo and her parents. But it also shows a new level of maturity in that Quentin is explaining his “rule-breaking” and his reasons for it with authority figures, who understand.