Paper Towns Movie Review


Last night, I finally went to see the film adaptation of John Green’s novel, Paper Towns.  I went with a group of former students who are just as obsessed about all things John Green as I am, so it was only appropriate that we see this film together before we all head off to school for the upcoming year.  I will be the only one returning to high school; they will all be freshmen in college.  Can you sense the feels setting in?

Anyways, we all met and everyone had previously read Paper Towns, but with mixed reviews.  About half of the group had read all of John Green’s novels, the rest had only devour his top 3 (in our humble opinions):

3.  Paper Towns

2.  The Fault in Our Stars

1.  Looking for Alaska

The last time I had read Paper Towns, I was still in Alaska and was in the middle of my John Green marathon of reading.  I had already read the other top 3, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  By the time I got to Paper Towns, I admit that I may have been a bit burnt out, from reading and island life, so upon reflection I may have judged the book too harshly back then.  I really didn’t connect with Margo, the radiation she gave off that enticed Q so much, but I loved the first half of the book (9 things to do tonight) and the friendship between the protagonist, Ben, and Radar.

That was four years ago, and I hadn’t read the book since.  As the release date approached for the movie, I decided to reread the book, and sadly, I only reconfirmed my first opinions.  It’s a beautifully written book, but I couldn’t agree with the agency to run off to New York that grew out of living across the street from Margo Roth Spiegelman.  But then again, I’m not an 18 year old male.  To me, she wasn’t really a character, but an object.  My friend, Amy, put it quite precisely when she said, “I only saw Margo as being a “person of interest” to someone the way a forbidden object is. It’s desirable until you have it and then once you do have it you realize that it wasn’t such a big deal.”

Be that as it may, I went into the movie with an open mind because it’s still John Green, and I loved Nat Wolff in “The Fault in Our Stars.”  It will always be a pleasure to watch his words come to life.

Post Movie Watching…

I was not disappointed.  That’s an awful way to start a movie review, especially when you proclaim to have such admiration for the author who penned the novel it was based upon.  It was a good movie.  There.  That’s better, right?  Ok, so I didn’t leave the film with as deep a visceral reaction as I did “The Fault in Our Stars,” but you cannot really compare the two movies, the characters in them, or their objectives.  Plenty of films, their sequels, or other films based upon the works of the same author/director/actor don’t get the same applause as others, so this is natural.  However, I feel guilty for not liking the movie as much as I could have.  It’s best to ensure that I am separating the issues I had with the movie versus the issues I had with the book.

Let me be very clear here:  I still don’t like Margo Roth Spiegelman as a character, but I think we saw a giant step in the career of Cara Delevingne.  She has hauntingly beautiful features, and she carried off the grit of her character well.

I loved the entire cast with the exception of one actor: Nat Wolff.  I heard someone in the theater say, “I liked him better when he didn’t have eyes.”  Ouch.  I would suggest that yes, he was better in “The Fault in Our Stars,” and it may just be that he’s more suited for playing supporting roles and not quite ready for “leading male.”  I just had a really hard time taking him seriously after I made this connection:


This is definitely not an attempt to make fun of Nat, or his acting, but I definitely got a strong “Confused Adam Sandler” whenever Q would sort of look off to either contemplate the repercussions of his next step or taking in the aftermath of what he had just done.  It happened a lot in the film, a distracting amount in fact, and it was difficult as an audience member to appreciate the silent mentality of Quentin.  I wanted more from him because I really do like the character.  I just couldn’t connect with this portrayal.  But, like a lot of film adaptations, it’s not easy to get all the intricacies of a character and their internalization across on the screen, and such was the case for Q and “Paper Towns.”

There were a few issues I had with how quickly certain areas of suspended disbelief were to have occurred, but my biggest was that we never really did get a strong sense as to why Margo would up and leave for a paper town, and why the five-some would get into a van (that apparently their parents were totally cool with them taking and going on a two-day road trip during their senior year – and we take issue with Margo’s parents!).  I get it because I read the book and I’m a human: we go to seek adventure and create memories.  Plus, they’re teenagers and innately impulsive.  One last escapade before “adulthood” because we are talking about five very serious-minded teenagers who are on paths to very prestigious future colleges/futures.  It was a very calculated risk they all took, and the camaraderie built between the three male friends and the expanded pack that included Lacey and Angela was very enjoyable to watch.  I wanted to see more character development for our two leads: Quentin and Margo, or at least the enticement of her.


When it gets right down to it, you can’t really review a film based on a novel without blurring the lines between your opinions of both.  In the end, it was a fine film adaptation.  There were moments of pure joy and hilarity, and a cameo that made us jump up and clap in our seats.  Perhaps I didn’t find as much comfort in watching this film because I was left unsettled from the novel.  It would be unfair to pin the responsibility of the director, actors, or even John Green’s role in the production on this film to make up for what was missing on the page.  Ultimately, I’m glad I saw this film and I’ll be preparing myself for the eventual release of the Looking for Alaska adaptation.

Final Review: 3 of 5 Stars

July 2015 Wrap Up

Highlights of the Month

Top Posts

Top 5 Posts of July:

5.  What is Your Reading Style?

4.  Analyzing Fiction and Nonfiction Strategies

3.  How to Begin your PrePlanning

2.  Planning Tools

1.  The Reading I Didn’t Do and Classroom Bootcamp 

Books I’ve Read:

Classroom FYI:


Big Little Lies Review

19486412(Summary via Goodreads) Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

My Review of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

“Helicopter parents. Before I started at Pirriwee Public, I thought it was an exaggeration, this thing about parents being overly involved with their kids. I mean, my mum and dad loved me, they were, like, interested in me when I was growing up in the nineties, but they weren’t, like, obsessed with me…Mothers took their mothering so seriously now. Their frantic little faces…Ponytails swinging. Eyes fixed on the mobile phones held in the palms of their hands like compasses.”

The world of helicopter moms is one that I am familiar with because of my profession.  I’ve been lucky enough that my teaching career has not brought any petitions to expel students across my desk, but then again, it hasn’t featured any vodka-doused Trivia Night fundraisers either.  I found myself intrigued because this triptych-formatted novel connected to me in various ways, no matter if it was through the insecure single-mother, the overly aggressive, sarcastic head-of-a-blended-household, or the mom whose outward appearance to perfectly coasting through life made people wonder, “how does she do it all?”  I’m not a mother, yet I saw myself in each one of these women, and that is the true gift of an author.

“Every day I think, ‘Gosh, you look a bit tired today,’ and it’s just recently occurred to me that it’s not that I’m tired, it’s that this is the way I look now.”

“If she packaged the perfect Facebook life, maybe she would start to believe it herself.”

When I first began reading Big Little Lies, I didn’t know where the plot lines would take me or how they would intersect with one another.  The one commonality between Jane, Celeste, and Madeline was that they had children stating out kindergarten in the same classroom.  How typical their experiences must be for all the parents around the world.  The fear and insecurity of properly raising children, the hopes that the choices that they made are worth the grief they will put their spouses and children through, and withstanding the judgmental looks and commentary from other parents and well-meaning meddlers.  As the stories began to play out, and the relationships between the three mothers developed into a friendships, their truths began to surface.  It was a natural progression, and the reader became another trusted figure.  We too had to earn the trust to be let into the turmoil that motivated each woman to either act, react, or reflect.  And it’s this organic development that makes the characters believable and one that you can empathize with.  This is one of Moriarty’s greatest gifts: creating characters who are tainted, yet you want to see them succeed.  They are redeemable.

“Your inferiority was right there on display for the world to see.”

“All conflict can be traced back to someone’s feelings getting hurt, don’t you think?”

The tone is quickly established by Moriarty’s structural choices.  This story is told by direct narration, but also through clips of interviews conducted by local police detectives.  By switching back and forth in tenses, the reader is given glimpses into the conclusion of the conflicts, but is continually given tidbits as to how to determine their opinion.  Additionally, the sarcasm and flippancy shown by the parents on both sides of the conflict add to the authenticity of the plot.

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”

“Stick with the nice boys…bad boys don’t bring you coffee in bed, I’ll tell you that for free.”

Ultimately, I loved this novel.  The combination of humor and tragedy created an experience for the reader that brought the characters to life.  The characters were both ridiculous and humane.  It’s an easy read that makes you want to turn the page to see where these conflicts are going to have to go for resolution.  Intrigue found on a kindergarten playground is rare, but Moriarty pulls it off.


Other books by Liane Moriarty:

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