"Paper Towns" by John Green and "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman

This week was midterms at my high school and I swore all week long that they were going to kill me but, I survived.

I’m in all upper level classes and I was really worried about the upcoming midterms. That is, until I finished them and I realized that the hard part isn’t taking the tests, its not letting the constant companionship of a textbook, and no time for other reading material, drive you insane.

All week I was going through withdrawal from my books and, I must say, I truly despise Pre-AP Chemistry, Algebra II and Geometry textbooks now. My only relief was when I discovered Paper Towns by John Green and, the 12 related poems, Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman.

Paper Towns by John Green is the story of Margo, the beautiful, mysterious and unattainable girl, and Quentin, the childhood friend who lusts after her. For years, the two have gone their separate ways, Margo to the popular crowd and Quentin to the band crowd (though he himself is not in it), connected only by the memories of an unfortunate occurrence long ago. One late night, Margo reappears at Quentin’s bedroom window and whisks him away for untold adventures. Together they wrong some rights and right some wrongs, and Quentin’s life seems to be looking up, until Quentin returns to school the next day to find that Margo has run away for the umpth time. Her own parents choose to let her go, but, Quentin still longs for her and the small chance that they could be something together. He soon discovers that Margo has left clues for him in a highlighted copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Determined to find Margo and suspecting her of committing suicide, Quentin devotes all of his time and energy, and that of his friends, to his search. The search leads them down many new paths, to both paper towns and an open mind, while leading readers through the same changes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and could not seem to stop talking about it. This unlikely addiction led me to read Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, which I borrowed from a friend who was just as obsessed as I was, am.

I breezed through the pages, hanging on every word, and finding myself eager for the few minutes before class and after exams when I might immerse myself in the perfect, smooth, words of Walt Whitman. It seemed that the poems were copied directly from my heart, somehow finding words to explain thoughts I could never verbalize. To describe scenes I could never replay. The first and longest poem, Song of Myself, seemed the perfect escape from the stress of quadratic equations and Lewis structures in class. Again, my friend and I shared this mutual adoration.

In one of his poems, Walt Whitman says “There is that in me…I do not know what it is…but I know it is in me.” I think I may speak for all of mankind when I say that this is an appropriate description of what it is to be human.

Throughout our lives, we are told to “be all we can be” and “make something of ourselves” and, most of us, try our best to do so; but, most of us, stumble along the way. We don’t always know what causes us to hesitate or diverge from the path and that is the unknown something within us that Whitman writes about.

Whitman also asks, “What have you thought of yourself? Is it you then that thought yourself less? Is it you that thought the President greater than you? or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?” Again, Whitman confronts the problems of all time, asking the questions that we all silently consider but do not voice. The same questions that the character of Quentin must wonder about in Paper Towns.

Again, I must say that Paper Towns by John Green and Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman are two perfect examples of literature, both modern and historic. They are truly incomparable and capture the questions of our own existence in a very fluid manner.

I also commend John Green on his excellent job of combining a true classic with his witty and comical style.

One final quote from Whitman concludes this:

“I know I have the best of time and space–and that I was never measured, and never will be measured. I tramp a perpetual journey…”