Following the many Katherines came Looking for Alaska, which has a very similar premise to Paper Towns. Boy falls for the girl whom he has built up in his imagination only for her to disappear and he needs to figure out what happened.
The story opens with Miles having a need to head into ‘the great perhaps’, something that meshed with my current lifestyle as I had just left home to live in a different country. I too wanted to go on a road trip, move to another place, with the hope that a new location would also mean a new me.
Green did a much better job with Paper Towns than he did with this first novel of his, possibly because he’s had more experience than he had when writing this one. However, one thing remains the same across all the books I’ve read of his: the characters feel flat. There is no depth, no emotional connection the reader can make so that they truly empathize with what unfolds on the pages.
It was only curiosity of what happens next that kept me reading, rather than empathy. I wanted to know what the chapters were counting down to, and what the fallout would be once that date had arrived. Yet even as I wanted to know how the characters would deal with the upheaval that was sure to beset their lives, I didn’t feel sympathetic.
The irony of this is that his characters are far more realistic than can be found in most novels. Those beings are what Green tries to avoid, saying that he likes to play with the idea of chosen identities and given ones. Rather than the building up of people into perfection so that they are no longer themselves but an idealized one—an imaginary one—his characters are flawed.
You never really know everything about your loved ones, which is proved by Miles as he tries to figure out the why of Alaska’s actions. Alaska was a bit more honest than Margo in showing others her true self, but that didn’t mean that she was understood any better by the people in her life. Who others think you to be is ever so different than who you choose to be or whom you really are inside.