Quentin or "Q" Jacobsen lives an unfailingly predictable, if not slightly mundane, lifestyle. He abandons his normally rational precautions during a spontaneous night out with Margo Roth Spiegelman, his childhood friend and crush.
His lack of confidence is his most notable character trait, which he tries to change in order to impress Margo. Most everything he does is controlled and safe, directly contrasting Margo's wild nature. She is the variable in his life, bringing him out of his comfort zone and monotonous patterns.
Margo Roth Spiegelman
Margo has "it": the inescapable pull, the force that gravitates everyone's eyes on her. Where Quentin fades into the background, Margo bathes in the limelight.
Margo is a high school senior and Quentin's childhood friend. Beautiful but unpredictable, she becomes the object of Quentin's love and admiration. Her flighty nature encapsulates the "manic pixie dream girl" trope; that is, a lovely yet unrestrained and unpredictable character. The chase is part of what beguiles Quentin and what Margot loves; just as he gets close, she slips out of reach again. Quentin's adoration and obsession creates a flawless character in his mind, providing for the central conflict as his image of Margot begins to fall apart.
During their last week of high school, Margo disappears, leaving behind a series of clues for Quentin to decipher. The air of deception and mystery, and Quentin's false image, cloak the "real" Margot: an uncertain, directionless girl.
Radar is Quentin's wisecracking, gregarious best friend. His name alludes to the fact that he is able to see people for where they really "are": that is, their true selves. Radar is pragmatic and logical, while Quentin lets emotion cloud his judgment. Radar's friends jokingly dub him the "token black friend." His parents own hundreds of Black Santa figurines in their home, much to Radar's chagrin. Radar is skilled in the technology field and enjoys editing Omnictionary (reminiscent of Wikipedia). While Quentin pines after Margo, Radar has a girlfriend but does not seem particularly infatuated with her.
Ben is Quentin's childhood friend. He is in a band with Radar and is a first chair clarinet player. Like Quentin and Radar, he falls in the lower end of the social hierarchy of high school. Ben is overly flirtatious, though he has no real experience with girls and comes across as unwittingly sexist.
Despite the casual, sexy front Ben tries to put on, he cannot escape his childhood nickname "Bloody Ben." It refers to a kidney infection he had as a child that caused his urine to be bloody, after which a rumor spread that it was from frequent masturbation.
Lacy is Margot's "frenemy." The bounds of their relationship are vague, though it is revealed that their friendship is often precarious. Like Margo, she is physically attractive. She is self-absorbed and often ditzy. Despite this, Lacy is a loyal and caring friend.
Mrs. Jacobsen is Quentin's mother. A psychologist, she is very perceptive and caring to the needs of others. She naturally adopts a motherly role and is a responsible, if not somewhat overprotective, parent.
Mr. Jacobsen is Quentin's father. He is also a psychologist and, like Quentin's mother, tries to offer emotional guidance and insight to Quentin. His actions can be somewhat smothering as he has the tendency to treat Quentin as a patient rather than his son.
Ruthie is Margo's younger sister. Despite her young age, she is able to manipulate others by giving information about Margot's whereabouts in exchange for money.
Chuck is a brutish, dimwitted bully who targets Quentin. He is a senior in high school.
Becca is the shallow, vapid enemy of Margo, who sleeps with Margo's boyfriend, Jase. She is physically beautiful, but has an ugly personality: she is revealed to be manipulative and prone to gossiping.
Jase is your typical all-American jock and the popular boyfriend of Margo. He represents everything that Quentin is not: self-assured, well-liked, and physically manly. Although Quentin is intellectually superior to Jase, he is jealous of Jase for having what Quentin cannot have: Margo.
Robert Joyner is the dead man that Young Quentin and Young Margo find in the park. He killed himself in response to a divorce.
Detective Otis Warren
Detective Otis Warren is the detective who has been assigned to Margo's case during this disappearance and the disappearances prior to this story. He is cynical about Margo's motives and doubts that she will return.
Paper Towns Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Paper Towns is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.