Quentin and Radar sit in the Jacobsen’s living room and wait for the Spiegelmans and Detective Warren to leave the house. When all the adults are finally gone, the boys collect Ben — who has been upstairs playing “Resurrection” while Quentin and Radar keep watch — and go next door. Margo’s little sister, Ruthie, is reluctant to let them in because Margo doesn’t typically let her friends into her room. Radar pays Ruthie five dollars, and they head upstairs into Margo’s room.
Ruthie’s revelation — that Margo does not allow friends to come into her room —is surprising, given that her first clue for Quentin invites him to do precisely that. If keeping her friends out of her room is a sign that Margo did not trust them entirely, her invitation to Quentin is a sign that she feels a special connection with him.
In Margo’s room, Quentin is stunned to find hundreds of vinyl records lining the bookshelves. She is apparently obsessed with music, but Quentin has never seen evidence of her passion until this moment. He cannot even remember seeing Margo listen to music, except occasionally while running in the park. She has no Woody Guthrie records, but Quentin finds an album of Woody Guthrie covers. The album has the same photograph from the poster printed on its sleeve.
The contents of Margo’s room reveal a side of her personality that she has carefully hidden from everyone around her. A passionate interest in music is an odd thing to keep secret, since there is nothing shameful about that interest. Hiding the records may not be a sign of her embarrassment, but rather of a need to keep her authentic self totally private.
Quentin shows the album to Radar and Ben. They take the album from its sleeve and are disappointed to find that there is nothing inside except the record — no note from Margo, for example. Ben notices that one of the songs listed on the back cover of the album has been circled in black pen. The song is called “Walt Whitman’s Niece.”
The boys tackle the project of unraveling Margo’s clues with the expectation that there will be a clear, easy solution to the puzzle — that Margo will leave a convenient note with all the information they need. This is their first sign that the mystery will not be so easy to solve.
Quentin knows that Walt Whitman is a nineteenth-century American poet. Radar searches Whitman’s name on Omnictionary, but finds no information about any of the poet’s nieces. He begins searching for a book of Whitman’s poetry among Margo’s things. He finds nothing useful, but Ben notices a copy of Whitman’s book Leaves of Grass on the bookshelf. Radar is sure another clue is waiting for Quentin in the book.
Margo sends her message as a series of small, breadcrumb-like clues rather than one big, clear sign. Since the clues are relatively straightforward, it seems as though her goal is not to confuse Quentin, but to test his loyalty and ensure that he won’t give up searching for her, the way her parents did.
Radar wonders aloud why Margo would leave clues for Quentin this time, when she has always left them for her parents in the past. Quentin will not admit it, but he quietly hopes that Margo has chosen him again, the way she chose him as a partner for her night of adventures. He hopes that Margo wants to be found this time, and specifically wants to be found by him.
While addressing her clues to Quentin is an expression of Margo’s confidence in him, it is also evidence that she has given up on her parents. Her attempts to communicate with them this way have failed in the past, and she has given up on trying to reach them.
The three boys return to Quentin’s house, and after paging through Leaves of Grass without finding any obvious clues, Ben and Radar go home. Quentin spends the rest of the afternoon reading the longest poem in the book, called “Song of Myself.” He notices that Margo has highlighted many lines in blue, but that two are highlighted in green: “Unscrew the locks from the doors! / Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!” He doesn’t know what to make, either of these lines or the ones highlighted in blue, but he feels certain Margo wants him to “play out the string,” to follow her trail until he finds her.
Annotating a book is a way of recording the thoughts and feelings one had while reading. Margo seems to have buried a clue in Whitman’s poem, but she has also offered Quentin access to her mind by allowing him to see the lines that meant the most to her. Her clues are superficial, but the places where she hides them — among her records, in her books — offer more personal information about her