“I don’t know why, but I always thought she would look different. Older…. But there she is, and I am watching her through the Plexiglas, and she looks like Margo Roth Spiegelman, this girl I have know since I was two – this girl who was an idea that I loved. And it is only now… that I realize that the idea is not only wrong but dangerous. What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.” – John Green, Paper Towns
Paper Towns is not your average love story. And as much as I love Romanticism as a genre, John Green’s book points out the trouble and heartbreak that romanticizing a person will cause.
Quentin had built up an idea of what Margo was like mainly by watching her from afar. It should not be a surprise, then, to find out that his idea of her is not entirely true to life. Whatever he thinks she is – hero, goddess, sprite – is fictional.
The theme of Paper Towns is stripping away fiction to find reality. This is Margo’s quest. Quentin’s quest is to find Margo. But he does not realize that the harder he chases after her the more of his fictitious idea he will lose. He finds Margo, but not the Margo he was looking for. Rather than the paper girl he created, he discovers a flesh and blood person, as well as all the baggage that entails.
While romanticized stories that make heroes out of humans and delete all the baser details are all well and good, it will only cause pain and suffering to romanticize real people. No one is a superhero, and no one is meant to be. The sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can begin to love the people around us for who they truly are.