Paper Towns

Paper Towns Literary Elements


Young Adult Fiction, Mystery

Setting and Context

Orlando, Florida

Narrator and Point of View

Narrated by Quentin Jacobsen in first person.

Tone and Mood

Coming-of-age; ironic; philosophical; humorous.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Quentin Jacobsen. The antagonist could be said to be Margo Roth Spiegelman.

Major Conflict

Margo goes missing, leaving behind a series of clues for Quentin and his friends to decipher.


Quentin tracks Margo down in a "paper town" called Agloe, New York. Margo treats Quentin, Lacy, Ben, and Radar disdainfully, much to their disappointment and outrage. Quentin's false perception of Margo is shattered as he finally sees her true character.


The clues Margo leaves behind, such as stanzas from Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," a Woody Guthrie poster, and a spray-painted message on the wall of a strip mall. Margo later claims that these were unintentional, though they all end up leading to her location in New York.


The night before she runs away, Margo tells Quentin: "I will miss hanging out with you." At the time, Quentin does not suspect her desire to leave and assumes they will continue to be friends.


References to Walt Whitman, Charles Dickinson, Herman Melville, T.S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath's works.


The image of a paper town and its metaphorical significance. To Margo, a paper town is a place whose its inhabitants are one-dimensional and shallow, "burning the future to stay warm" (p.58)




Margo's self-discovery occurs at the same time as Quentin's. Both make important realizations about their characters as well as what they truly want in life.

Metonymy and Synecdoche