Reading Paper Towns as Historical Fiction

I am a massive John Green fan. From his videos to books to his podcasts, I love the things he creates and the work he does career wise as well as to improve the world. However, I hadn’t read Paper Towns, his third novel, until literally an hour ago, and I have some capital “O” opinions about the book. 

Quick Summary: Three weeks before graduation, Quinten “Q” is approached in the middle of the night by his childhood crush and neighbor, Margo, to go on a series of adventures that evening. The next day, she disappears, leaving a trail of clues for Q and his friends to potentially follow and find her.

Quick Review: I really, really enjoyed this book. I managed to read this 300 page novel that goes back and forth between literary criticism, breaking down tropes, teenage shenanigans and road tripping, which are all of my favorite things layered into a book. Plus, it’s John Green, which feels like reading a book written by a dear friend. I’d suggest picking it up if you haven’t read it already.

Going a Little Deeper: While I don’t review every book I read on my blog, I wanted to give this one a deeper dive because I live in Orlando, and this book primarily takes place in Orlando. Or rather, Winter Park, which is basically Orlando but technically not. There are lot’s of parts of Orlando that aren’t Orlando, but anyway.

This book was published in 2008, meaning it was probably written through 2007, making this book a little over 10 years old, and honestly, in reading it, I hardly recognized the Central Florida Green describes.

Green grew up in the Winter Park area, and bases the book off of Winter Park High School, but through Margo’s night running around the city seeking revenge, and Q’s various musings on Orlando, it feels as though I am reading a book from a person who hasn’t been to Orlando in many years. And ten years out, things are different.

Wet n’ Wild, a theme park with a variety of water slides, was recently torn down to the ground in favor of another park being built. I-4 is literally never quiet or empty, due to the last 5 or more years of expansion based construction. Seminole County is not rural and has as much sprawl and suburbia as Orange County.

Living in Orlando has provided me with context for this book, and while it may have been somewhat accurate at the time, Orlando has changed. Downtown is a thriving, bustling and rich area that, since Pulse, hasn’t taken down a single rainbow flag. There are districts of cool dining and food trucks. There is more to see and do than ever before, in a town that used to just be known for Disney. Even Winter Park has changed dramatically, going from a somewhat sleepy but quaint little city to a bustling, overdeveloped cityscape.

Does this make Paper Towns historical fiction? Doubtful. It still technically falls into the YA contemporary bracket, and it should stay there. It was contemporary at the time. But 10 years out, you need to not fully know Orlando to love the book fully.

Thank you for reading, and tell me: Is there a book that you’ve read that gets your hometown completely wrong? Let me know in a comment below.

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Thank you for reading!


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