Up until I read The Fault in Our Stars, this was my hands-down favorite John Green book. (It’s holding strong at a very close number two.) I love Paper Towns—I like it as a foil to Alaska, I like it on its own, I just love this book period. It’s the strongest example of Green’s writing to date. I like the stream-of-consciousness feel to the story, and how the narration seems to twist and turn as different clues appear and then disappear. There’s some absolutely fantastic descriptions in this—the beginning scenes of Quentin and Margo running around downtown Orlando pranking people is one of the most vivid pieces I’ve read. It’s another example of how realistic his characters can be—I can see Quentin hunkering down in the abandoned pseudovisions, and get that sense of claustrophobia and worry. And even some of the narrative passages are just so well done, I look at my writing and yell at myself, “See? Why can’t we do that!” The line “You will go to the paper towns and never come back,” still manages to give me chills.One of the things that really draws me to Paper Towns is that it is very much a response to Looking for Alaska, and what I really like in here is that the response to Margo’s disappearance feels like something more natural. I like that Quentin’s friends are more ready to call him out for coming up with a fantasy, and actually point out the fact that he should go out and have fun. Margo is even more frustrating than Alaska as a character, mostly because we do know the reasons behind her motives and creating this quirky persona. And she gets called out on it—Margo may think it’s the right thing for her to do with her life, but she manages to single out everyone who does care about her. And much like Alaska/Miles, I don’t think Quentin/Margo stands a chance of a lasting relationship. Which is the other thing I really like here, that Quentin accepts the fact that what he wants is never going to be what Margo wants, and he should really give up on the fantasy.If there is a downside to the writing, Quentin does sound a lot like Miles 2.0. (In fact, I’ve been trying not to type “Miles” every time for “Quentin.”) I think he’s the stronger character, but they do sound way too similar. Everyone else, though, really comes out on their own in this. As much as I want to smack Ben for half of the things that come out of his mouth, I do really like him. Out of the whole group, he’s the only one who sounds closest to a real teenage boy. As with most of the side characters, oh Radar, how I love you and your adorable geekiness and your ongoing relationship with Omnictionary. Only second to Radar in my character rankings is Lacey—I like the character arc with her and Ben, and it’s interesting to see the Mean Girl dynamic actually being taken down a bit. (Margo and Becca aren’t exempt from the Mean Girl-ness, but it’s interesting to see Margo bitch out at Lacey and wanting to slap Margo for it.)The plot is definitely what draws me to this. It does feel like a very real response to what would happen if someone like Margo does disappear—her family being fed up with it, her friends kind of blowing her off. The ending does delve into the fantasy for a moment, but the lingering reality helps root the ending into more bittersweet territory. And I like that it does keep you guessing about what’s happened to Margo, and why do her clues seem so random. Again, the massive road trip does feel a little implausible (mostly because I doubt that everyone’s parents are fine with the kids running out at the last minute), but it’s one of my favorite parts of the book. I like the hazy, almost timeless quality to the narrative at that point, and even if the clue didn’t pay off, it’s still a great piece of writing.This is the book I normally recommend to people when introducing them to John Green. It is his strongest writing so far, and the story is engaging and keeps you guessing; not to mention, the way it examines its characters and the archetypes they fall into. Even if you haven’t read Alaska (and if you have, even better), I highly recommend this book.