Paper Towns Review and Why Cara Delevigne is Perfect as Margo
Rating: 7.5/10 stars
Paper Towns is my first John Green book despite having followed the vlogbrothers for as long as I can remember. Now having read it, I can confidently say that I can’t wait to see the movie.
Paper Towns is centered around the just about to graduate Quentin Jacobsen and his preoccupation with Margo Roth Spiegelman. To Quentin, she is nothing short of perfect. After taking him on the most exhilarating night of his life, Margo disappears. The book continues with Quentin’s journey towards adulthood and his search for Margo who has seemed to have left him clues to lead him right to her.
I recommend this book for those who have just graduated high school particularly because it deals heavily with themes of identity. Having just graduated myself, it has broadened my perspective on how I choose to live my life. I often asked myself if I was a “paper girl” –an idea Margo presents early on in the book. Yet, I found that although this book is particularly relevant for the transitioning youths, it is also universally relevant. John Green uniquely deals with the theme of identity in a way that makes it open to everyone.
John Green notes that if there’s such thing as dehumanization: treating people less than human, there is also the opposite which is romanticization: treating people as more than human. John Green also emphasizes that the very thing that humans define themselves by, empathy, is an intrinsically flawed and incomplete skill. I liked how although many parts were very light hearted, John Green also drives into very dark themes such as neglectful parenting, and parental hypocrisy. It is this type theme development laced within witty adolescent humor that makes Paper Towns worth the read.
For those who have not read the book, there will be spoilers.
When I heard about the casting of paper towns, I was ecstatic. I think they’ve done fantastically with the casting. Natt Wolf is the perfect mixture of ‘dorky’ and ‘potential hero’, but that’s not where the controversy stems from. Many members of the social media universe are unhappy with Cara Delevigne being cast as Margo. Honestly, I am quite shocked.
So, how is Cara Delevigne perfect as Margo Roth Spiegelman?
Sure, Cara Delevigne isn’t chubby nor jewish, but if this is the issue we are concerned about, then we’ve missed the core of what this book is about. No, physical appearance is not the major aspect of Margo’s significance despite what people seem to claim. In fact, the real Margo is never truly revealed until the end. We are only presented with Quentin’s version of Margo, and it is revealed that there are actually many versions of Margo. Even Lacey had her own. “A version of Margo for each of us” as Quentin had said.
It’s not exactly Margo’s fault that she’s perceived in such a godly manner. Margo is a very complex character, mostly because not much is really said about her. Moreover, what IS said is said by Quentin, who later realizes that his perceptions are flawed. Green calls her a “mirror” and the reason for why Margo is a profound character is not because of her personal and direct contribution to the plot (it’s her absence that drives it), it’s the way characters perceive her and how she instills development in the characters. In essence she shows us that people who try to perceive her a romanticized way are people who have yet to grow up, but this is out of her control.
That’s what made finding Margo so difficult; he didn’t know who he was looking for. He actually never found Margo, at least the Margo he was looking for… he found another Margo, a Margo he did not know at all.
So if you really think about it in that respect, then Cara Delevigne is absolutely perfect for the role. Let’s see, Cara Delevigne is a high fashion super model who somehow is versatile enough to be an equally successful commercial model. She is a multi-talented Victoria’s secret model that can … wait for it…beatbox. I mean the name Cara Delevigne is almost synonymous to amazing eyebrows; However, is that all Cara Delevigne is? Have we forgotten that Cara is also a person? She really is out of this world, but again is it because we fail to see the romanticization?. Margo in the book was said to be chubby and jewish, but her purpose in the book didn’t lie in her appearance per se but in the way people saw her: perfect– which would of course help if she was a supermodel..but either way “perfection” is in the eye of the beholder. Cara should have a pretty easy time reflecting the complexity of this character. Cara is Margo in the mainstream media. Cara’s possibly misunderstood and isn’t as magical as she seems… or are we wrong and is Cara actually perfect? We will never know because… humanity is so limiting. hah. Thanks John Green.
To those who argue that Margo is a one-dimensional stereotypical popular character:
You have fallen into the trap Quentin had. You are defining her in the way Quentin presented her in the beginning, which is exactly that, one-dimensional. John Green shows us how easy it is to fall into romanticization BUT that it’s possible to realize it like Quentin had. It is interesting how despite almost spelling it out for us, many people have still done it as if missing the book’s point completely. At the end of the day, Margo was meant to seem perfect and archetypal- that’s the point. This book satires the perception of characters as stereotypical. John Green challenges the entire notion of “knowing someone.” It’s normal to not fully know someone, it only turns south when we begin to project expectations onto a person and make them feel that they need to uphold your version of them. This is why Margo left, to rid herself of expectations. Like dehumanization, romanticization can also be a form of slavery, albeit more metaphysical, but it’s there.
Upon reflection, I realized how Quentin’s drastic romanticization of Margo coloured how I saw the “clues” she had “set up”. Quentin painted Margo to be meticulous and precise like when “she’d even painted her eyelids” with black face paint at the beginning. However, it was clear that she had pretty much left a rather sloppy job of hiding her trail thus inadvertently leading the boys+Lacey right to her! (Something she hadn’t actually wanted.) I thought using dual colours in the highlighters in the were some sort of profound clue that Quentin couldn’t understand but actually… Margo was so basic that he couldn’t believe that it was that simple. She painted over her previous graffiti, yet the boys could still see it, small complexities like that which break the whole idea of her being perfect was great.
The heavy romanticization at the beginning, something people heavily criticized, only made their concluding encounter all the more profound. Margo and all her flaws are revealed at the end and I really liked how the end was left up to us. We were left with a big question! Do they meet again?
I personally don’t think so.
Part of what makes the ending so tragic is that there seemed to be so much finality in their dialogue. Margo exists better within the confines of Q’s mind. Margo stirs his imagination, and the thought of her is more than her. He fell in love with someone he didn’t know, but the symbolic burying of their past represented letting go. Although I felt a pang of disappointment wherein Margo was in fact completely different from how Q expected, it was also of course, cliche as this will sound, a growing experience.
How did I feel after reading the book?
After reading, I was left primarily questioning myself whether I was a paper person? Was I doomed to live a paper life? I’ve done what has been laid out for me and I have never really questioned it until now. I am such a product of my surroundings and its norms. That scared me a little, but I also realized that perhaps being a paper person is okay too. I mean, wasn’t Quentin a paper person? He chose to stay home and to live a paper life, and perhaps that’s because he finds happiness in that.
The idea of a paper town intrigued me. There were 3 definitions in the book:
- Margo’s definition
- Unfinished subdivision
- Copyright trap
but Margo’s definition interested me the most. It’s odd because although at first the statement ”Paper people living Paper lives” seemed like a profound observation, I’m almost certain Margo wasn’t intending the depth. I think it was part of Green’s elaborate painting of Margo’s imperfections for us to realize our mistake of hyperinflating her. I was so upset when I found out that the metaphor I held onto so dearly was actually just a clue to where she was headed (a copyright trap town) rather than a meaningful metaphor for the way people live their lives. It just shows that intended meaning is not always the most important. Sometimes people can draw meaning from meaningless things or things that meant something else, and that’s alright too. A piece of work is an interaction between the reader and the writer, that’s what makes reading a book so beautiful.
What did I dislike?
Despite having pretty much glowing reviews, I did dislike a few things which have mostly to do with how Green developed the big theme of perceiving identity. It all came in huge chunks. Chapter 15, when Quentin is talking to his parents, John Green spells out what this entire book is about in a chapter essentially. I can’t be too critical, however, because it was still very good, it just lacked sophistication. Note, possibly that John Green uses the parents to show that not only kids have the problem of fully empathizing and treating people like people, so do adults; it’s human nature. Too much Whitman for my taste though. Let’s not forget the almost lazy use of the teacher to arrive at certain conclusions. Perhaps John Green is advising young adults to approach teachers/adults more often? Dammit John Green, you and your santas win again.