Paper Towns

Paper Towns Summary and Analysis of Part II (Chapters 6-14)


Tuesday, six days after Margo's disappearance, Quentin tells his parents about the clues. Ben calls Quentin after dinner to gush more about shopping for prom with Lacey, and something about the call causes Quentin to realize that Margo might have meant for him to unscrew his own door from its jamb. Doing so, Quentin finds a tiny scrap of paper that reads "8328 bartlesville Avenue"(p.134). Quentin wants to go that night, but settles for playing sick the next morning and going to the address along with Ben and Radar. In the morning, Quentin makes himself throw up and then shows his mother, getting ready to follow Margo's clue as soon as she and his father leave for work. Ben and Radar show up and the three boys have a great time driving out to the location Margo wrote for Quentin. When they arrive, they find a dilapidated building with boarded-up windows and broken signs marking abandoned stores. Suddenly, Quentin is overcome with the sudden realization that Margo came here to kill herself and led him here to find her. He is full of fear, as are Ben and Radar, but they decide to venture inside the building.

Inside the building it smells of death but they soon find a dead raccoon causing the stench. However, Quentin still thinks that Margo is likely dead somewhere in the building. They try to push through various doors and finally Ben runs at a wall, using his childhood tae kwon do skills, and makes a crack big enough for them to pull open. They crawl through the hole into complete darkness, lighting it a little with Radar's key chain flashlight. They find a tunnel cut into another wall and marked with the words "Troll Hole" which leads to another hole that brings the boys to what was once a souvenir store. The display cases still have some merchandise in them, though the floor is also littered with glass and flakes of peeling paint. They crawl through a final wall-hole to find an abandoned office room with rows of desks, all with calendars that read February 1986. They look around for signs of any recent visitors; Radar notes that there is a rectangle with no dust in the empty room and Ben notes that there is an area of wall that looks like it was recently painted. Up close, Quentin sees that there is red graffiti under the recent layer of white primer, and using a flashlight the boys read the message, "YOU WILL GO TO THE PAPER TOWNS/ AND YOU WILL NEVER COME BACK"(p.149). Terrified, the boys hurry out of the building the way they came.

Ben and Radar drop Quentin back at home where he puzzles over "Song of Myself" in Leaves of Grass a while longer and then decides to call Detective Warren. He tells the detective about the new clues and about Margo's use of the phrase paper towns on their last night together. The detective is not very comforting to Quentin, telling him that "[if] she wanted you to find her - dead or alive - you already would have"(p.151). Quentin begins to research on his own, looking on Omnictionary and Google but not finding much on paper towns. However, he does find one user post that links the term "paper town" with the term "pseudovision." Excited and still fearing the worst, Quentin chats with Radar and Ben but they seem to be losing interest in the case. So, alone, Quentin compiles a list of five pseudovisions near to Jefferson Park and tacks a map of the locations to his wall. Seeing no pattern, he decides to visit them all.

The next day after school, Quentin visits Grovepoint Acres. He walks down unfinished dirt cul-de-sacs but finds no people or even footprints. Next, he drives to Holly Meadows but again finds only fields of dirt. However, Quentin sees a solitary oak tree standing on the lot and thinks back to the time he and Margo found the dead man leaned against a tree. He pictures Margo dead and distorted but finds nothing; he pounds the dirt in relief and frustration, missing Margo.

The next day, Quentin finds that only Lacey will really engage in more conversations about Margo's disappearance and perhaps death. In English class, Quentin's teacher is lecturing on Ahab's obsession with the white whale in Moby Dick and Quentin decides to approach her about an interpretation of Leaves of Grass. Quentin tells Dr. Holden about the clue Margo left in "Song of Myself" about the doorjambs and potentially about killing herself. Dr. Holden tells Quentin that the clues are clever but reductive, as the poem is actually quite optimistic and better read fully rather than skimmed. Quentin goes home and tries to read more of "Song of Myself" but is still unable to make heads or tails of the dense text.

The next morning, Quentin tries to get his friends' attentions they tell him to wait until after prom, which is that night. Quentin tells his parents that he has decided to go to prom and takes the family minivan to another pseudovision called Quail Hollow, and then back to the boarded-up mini-mall. The hole Quentin, Ben, and Radar created to get in has been taped up, meaning someone has been to the building since they visited last. This time, Quentin goes through the door and proceeds to the office room. He finds a desk calendar stopped on a different month than the others and, paying special attention to this desk, finds a bottle of the exact color nail polish Margo had used to paint her nails in his car. He even sees a small amount of blue on the bottle from the spray paint that had stained both of their fingers. Quentin decides that, in case Margo is still living there, he will stay in the building all night. He explores the building and finds more evidence that Margo had been living in the empty room from thumbtack holes in the wall and a knit blanket rolled up in a carpet. Quentin has a hard time imagining Margo alone in the building, but realizes he must think about what Margo might be like when not performing for others. Finally, Quentin is bored enough to return to reading "Song of Myself." He starts to understand some things he hadn't before about seeing and re-seeing things. Convinced that he can now begin to discover who Margo is, he looks again for clues and finds a great deal of travel guides for locations near and far.

Quentin falls asleep and dreams of lying with Margo but is awoken by a call from Ben at 3:18 AM. Ben is very drunk and excited and wants Quentin to be his designated driver home from a party at Becca Arrington's house. Quentin arrives at the house by 4AM and finds that Ben is being lauded as a prodigy at keg stands. Quentin, not in at all the same mood as the rest of the party guests, decides to wait for Ben somewhere quiet. He walks past a room where Becca is making out with Jase who accidentally says, "You are so hot, Margo"(p.182). Quentin goes to the bathroom to hide and to pee and is interrupted mid-stream by the voice of Lacey Pemberton from the bathtub. She invites him to hide with her in there and tells him that prom was fun but that Becca just told the whole party that she has an STD. They begin to talk about Margo until Lacey falls asleep. Around 5AM, Quentin wakes Lacey and leaves to take home Ben, who tells him that none of them will be wearing clothes under their graduation robes and reveals that he has superglued a can of beer to his hand. Quentin drops Lacey and Ben at their houses and then returns to his own house for a few hours of sleep.

In the morning, Quentin calls Ben and then Radar. Both are hung-over, but Radar gives Quentin attention while Ben does not, leading to a fight between Ben and Quentin. Radar comes to Quentin's house and they try to map where Margo could be based on the guidebooks. Quentin prints a map of the US and plots the points with tacks. Radar reveals that he has been doing his own tracking of Margo - whether she logs into Omnictionary, and tracking people who Google the phrase "paper towns." Radar gives Quentin a lecture on expecting people not to be themselves. They talk amiably about Radar's night with Angela and are interrupted by Ben, who thanks Quentin as an apology for his behavior.


Quentin, though the main character and narrator of Paper Towns, is largely passive in the beginning of the story - following Margo on an adventure, following her clues from poster to record to book - but the beginning of this section demonstrates a departure from simply following and a move toward true action. Quentin notes that he has a perfect attendance record slightly earlier in the story, but he forgoes this - taking action and lying to his parents in the process - for the chance to follow Margo's footsteps.

Quentin's taking action shows that Margo's plan for him joining her on her last night has worked - he has broken out of his school-focused routine and begins to take some crazy risks (breaking into buildings alone, etc.). However, this raises a major question in the book - what is the value of having a planned out life, especially after high school? Margo makes fun of Quentin for being overly focused on college, career, and having a life plan at all, but she does not genuinely seem to have the correct way to live life worked out as attempts to find happiness breaking into buildings to write by herself, leaves a crooked breadcrumb trail for Quentin to follow her, and ends up spending weeks in another dirty, abandoned building. Furthermore, Margo fails to see that she loves to plan as much as Quentin, plotting escapes and clues for others to find. Green asks the young adult reader to contemplate for herself the planning done by Quentin and Margo, and parse how much life planning is appropriate at a young age.

Green creates an interesting moment after Quentin finds Margo is not dead behind a tree at one of the pseudovisions, writing, "I missed her I missed her I missed her I miss her"(p.157). With most of the book written in the past and past perfect tenses, a sudden use of present tense shocks the reader. Furthermore, repetition is always purposeful in a book, play, or song - the author is not simply looking for more words to fill the page but communicate something important in that a character truly cannot find any more words or is experiencing a change of emotions around them. In this case, the repetition serves to reinforce the reader's understanding of how deeply Quentin feels for Margo, and the switch to present tense - given Quentin's thoughts about the parallels with Robert Joyner - serve to bring Margo into the present in the sense of not being dead and not being her childhood self.

Green parallels Quentin's obsession with Margo by having Quentin's teacher Dr. Holden lecture on Moby Dick. Green writes, in the voice of Dr. Holden, "You never see Ahab wanting anything else in the whole novel, do you? He has a singular obsession. You can argue...that Ahab is a fool for being obsessed. But you could also argue that there is something tragically heroic about fighting this battle he is doomed to lose"(p.159). After this, Green, back in the narrating voice of Quentin, writes, "I wrote down as much as I could of what she said, realizing that I could probably pull off my final reaction paper without actually reading the book"(p.159). Though Dr. Holden is posing insightful questions very important to understanding Quentin's struggle - such as whether he is a hero or a fool, something Margo will bring up himself - Quentin clearly will not listen, even demonstrating uncharacteristic disregard for school, one of the effects of his obsession with tracking Margo.

After this English class, Quentin asks Dr. Holden for help interpreting "Song of Myself" and Dr. Holden tells him first that he thinks both Margo and Quentin are interpreting the poem wrong but then, doing somewhat of a 180, says that she thinks Quentin's reading Leaves of Grass to understand Margo is what Whitman would have wanted. "Song of Myself" is the last true clue that Margo leaves Quentin, and is supposed to be a simple direction to the doorjamb. However, the same effect occurs that sometimes does when an individual gives another a homemade playlist - the receiver reads too far into the lyrics, which themselves have ample room for ambiguity and symbolism. Furthermore, this demonstrates a fundamental childishness in both Margo and Quentin, neither of whom are able to read a text straight through or for its own merit, instead carving out the messages they want it to hold.