As the book comes to an end, you are left anxious to learn if Margo is alive, dead, or if perhaps Q and friends just missed her.
Review (with Spoilers)
With Q, Lacey, Ben and Radar in a car on their way to Agloe, New York we witness their final hoorah! For with the possibility that they will all split once the summer is over, this is but their first adventure to really strengthen their bonds before it is tested. All thanks to Margo. A girl who was more talked about than heard, but with her legend thus far being built up too much for her to be dead, I’m sure everyone in the van, and those like us who are just reading about this journey, have their fingers crossed.
Characters & Story
The First Hour
We start off by hearing the consequences of the group skipping graduation, of which the only major issue is that Radar won’t get to lose his virginity to Angela yet. Though, as for everyone else, it isn’t that huge. So, with telling their parents the bad news out of the way, everyone takes on a role so that they can make it to Agloe before Margo’s supposed time of department. Lacey holds a BP card which allows the van to get gassed up, and get everyone food and clothing; Radar provides time management assistance when it comes to how long they can break, what speed to go, and also provide information about construction and other issues; Q is the one who provided the van; and Ben is comic relief.
Nothing really happens in the 2nd hour but their Metaphysical I Spy game being established. As well as Lacey flirting with Ben.
Pretty much all that happens is Ben pees in the car, using one of the beer bottles to urinate in. Leading to the question, which may have been mentioned in the last Paper Towns post, why is no one fearing the fact that if they are pulled over with all that beer, a cop would so bust them. I mean, Q in The First Hour is worried about getting tickets more than all the beer he has in the trunk. Of which is of little use since Lacey’s party pretty much is cancelled now.
The kids have made it to Georgia and finally get to a BP where they can use a bathroom, gas up, get food, and our naked boys can get some clothes. All in 6 minutes since with 900 miles to go, Radar is trying to make sure they keep good time. Of which they do. For with a few seconds unused, and $100+ of stuff, they are now fueled up, with food, some t-shirts, and are ready to keep heading north.
But while they may have made good time, we learn they made mistakes despite Lacey drilling it into their heads what they had to get since around Hour Two. As for what the fatal mistakes are? Well, no fruits or low calories/ low sugar food items, something Lacey isn’t happy about since she watches her weight, then a shirt with a confederate flag which Radar is slightly upset about. Not to the point of yelling and losing his cool, something he can’t do because he is driving, but he does find it messed up that these white people’s token black friend, which he calls himself, bought him a racist shirt. Though taking things in stride, he does fancy the idea of getting pulled over by a cop with a confederate shirt on.
A new game called “That Guy Is A Gigolo” is introduced and basically, it is a car game in which you guess the lives of people in cars around you. The first spotted person is a Hispanic woman, and Q has the most prejudice assumption about the woman. He thinks she is illegal, sends money home, has two little kids, and a husband who she only sees 3-4 months because he is somewhere out in Ohio. But, hey, they are happy. Radar counters Q’s screwed up imagining of this woman by saying she is a secretary at a law firm, an assumption he makes due to the way she is dressed.
And at the end of the Hour Six chapter, Q basically explains how the game reveals a lot more about the person than the one being imagined. Making it seem Q is coming out as someone likely racist against Hispanics. At least in my mind.
In Hour Seven, nothing happens. Q just presents the van as a sort of one-floor house.
With them making it into South Carolina, Radar and Q switch places, while the car is still in motion. Also, they talk about how this energy drink called Bluefin, when mixed with Ben’s pee, makes this nice lighting effect. However, being that Radar is probably a little agitated due to not having sex with his girlfriend, and disgusted by Ben’s piss still being in the car, he tells Q to throw it away or he will end their 11-year friendship.
Nothing worth noting happens.
It is now 12:13 AM and they are taking their 2nd break. 5:35 PM was when they had their first one. And at this point, pretty much I am in love with everyone and Q is slowly recovering since him talking about Margo has gone beyond tolerable, but now is only done when it is necessary. Leaving the only thing worth noting being the boys finally get some pants, Radar gets a “World’s Best Grandma” T-shirt to replace the confederate flag one, and Lacey is now driving.
Though Lacey doesn’t get to drive for long. For with her needing to go to the bathroom they pull over and Q gets back into the driver’s seat.
It’s 2:40 AM and the only thing keeping Q awake is what is left of the Bluefin and Ben. Someone who remains a bit pessimistic at the idea of Margo not trolling them. Though, rather than attack Margo as he usually does, he instead speaks on how worried he is for Q if Margo isn’t in Agloe. Also how the Margo he may be expecting might not be there in Agloe. For with Ben recognizing, due to his experience with Lacey, that Q may have very likely dreamed up Margo to the point of her being more a fantasy than a person, he may really be disappointed. And rather than take this as anyway besides an insult, Q gets defensive and acts like Ben is lecturing him. But before he could enact his counter attack, he sees two cows on the highway. Two cows not at all avoidable, and damn if you don’t feel like the book may have an unexpected twist where Q and company die and meet Margo in the afterlife.
But that doesn’t happen. Ben saves everyone by grabbing a hold of the wheel after Q releases it, and he saves them all! Then, to add onto the miracle, the car only has a deep gouge on one of the sliding doors. Other than that, it is fine. Though what did get sacrificed was all the beer.
With Ben saving them all, he is touted as a hero. Something he doesn’t welcome, surprisingly, for in all honesty he was just looking to save himself. Which no one believes, especially Lacey. Though thankfully, she doesn’t go overboard and start talking about any sort of reward for being a hero, or really overdo it with praise to the point of being annoying.
Q basically just writes off the damage done to his car since he can work in his dad’s office to pay for the damage.
After such a traumatic experience, it is agreed Q needs to go to sleep. Not because anyone blames him for the near accident, but because after such a moment it is agreed upon he should rest. So Lacey double belts him into the back of the van and he drifts off.
Hour Sixteen – Eighteen
Q is asleep.
The group is in New York at last and it is decided the car shall be named “The Dreidel” since the harder you spin it the better it performs. A name both Ben and Radar agree with.
Nothing really happens besides Ben and Lacey having a cute moment and Q realizing what a great story their journey will be in the future.
It has been over 1100 miles and thanks to Radar planning ahead and giving them a half hour+ of cushion to be late, they are actually well on time. Leading us to the final chapter: Agloe.
To cut to the chase, the group does find Margo’s car, but no Margo. The car is empty, as well as a suitcase in it, and it again looks like the worse may have happened. Though as the group ventures into a nearby barn, in a makeshift cubicle they find Margo writing away in her notebook. Completely surprised by their appearance. She asks for five minutes to finish writing and then immediately Q is back to fantasizing about this weird and mysterious girl he fell in love with. One who doesn’t exist.
For while Q is expecting this big moment in which she cries in his arms, and does everything you would expect in maybe a Nicholas Spark book, she doesn’t. In fact, she is pretty nonchalant about it all. Well, except for Ben and Lacey being together. She is surprised by this to the point of offending Lacey, and Lacey lets her have it and basically vocalizes how upset she is Margo just disappeared and brought a dark cloud over this last month of high school. An insult which barely fazes Margo since Lacey making references to how fat she always was has not been forgotten. So, Lacey leaves, with Ben following, and then Radar gives his short little insult to her and then Margo is left stunned.
Not just by what everyone said, but more so how they found her and why they didn’t give some sort of warning. Something odd to say since I am unsure if calling her was ever mentioned. Though with her not having her phone, so it seems, it would have been a waste of time anyway.
And for the rest of the chapter, it is pretty much Q and Margo. Their conversation begins with her calling him still having this idea of her from back when they were kids, he makes her feel guilty her about all the people she left behind, including her little sister, and then he begins to use his parents’ therapy techniques to calm down the situation. Leading to her asking how he found her, him talking about how he thought she wanted to be, which she didn’t, and then him giving the rundown of how they ended up in Agloe.
All of which leads her to feel a bit embarrassed, and a bit uncomfortable since she honestly didn’t plan for any of this. Thus leading to a slew of apologies from Margo to Lacey and Q, and her explaining everything. Such as the pranks we witnessed in the beginning of the book, technically those were supposed to happen after graduation. However, with her finding out about Jase things were pushed up for she couldn’t stand being in that town any longer. Though, as a silver lining for Q, he was always part of her plan. Mostly because she wanted to liberate him and perhaps restore her own image of the boy she once liked.
Leading to the topic of what is in the notebook? The answer is, a story Margo wrote as a kid, when she surprisingly had a crush on Q. A story in which they are both detectives, her dog is part of their group and can talk, and Q sacrifices himself for her. An ending he isn’t fond of, but with Margo being ten when this was written, and not in the place Q wishes she was for an ending which would more satisfy him, him dying was what was needed since a happily ever after didn’t seem to be an option.
Leaving us wondering if they may together have a real adventure once more. For while Q is given a time limit by his friends, despite it being his minivan, here is Margo giving him an invite to go with her on this journey. However, as much as time with Margo seems cool, he more so wants to bring her back than travel the continental United States with her. This though isn’t an option for Margo. She feels like she would get sucked right back into the life she had such a difficult time escaping. For while it didn’t seem hard since she just went poof, it took a lot of planning and confidence to leave someplace which has been her world for so long. But with that world becoming toxic, it became no longer livable. Though, with recognizing she is going to be gone for awhile, she asks for Q’s phone to call her little sister and let her know she is ok. She also talks to her mom and is reminded why going with Q isn’t an option, even if she can stay over his place.
So, in the final moments of the book, they decide it is time to bury how they saw each other. Q buries his idolized version of Margo from when they were a kid, and she buries how she saw Q. And in this moment of vulnerability, Q finds the need to really end his fascination and obsession over her by getting the kiss he has always dreamed of. A kiss which isn’t lustful, but sweet. So sweet Margo seemingly wants more kisses between them and officially invites him on her trip. But with Q having grown so much, and him recognizing the Margo he knew as dead and him not ready to be with this new Margo since they want so many different things in life, he rejects her invitation. A blow which hurts, but you can see he wants to still be friends. Though it is hard to say if that maybe possible for as close as Q got with Ben, Radar, and Lacey, and as close as he got to Margo in this final chapter, it truly seems there is a fork in the road and who knows if the paths the two may take will ever meet up again.
“Just remember that sometimes the way you think about a person isn’t the way they actually are. […] People are different when you can smell them and see them up close, you know?”
— Paper Towns: Hour Ten – Page 213
“Maybe I am the most horribly self-centered person in the history of the word. But God, do you think I would […] if I didn’t need to?”
— Paper Towns: Agloe – Page 226.
“It’s kind of great, being an idea that everybody likes. But I could never be the idea to myself, not all the way.”
— Paper Towns: Agloe – Page 232
“Each of us starts out as a watertight vessel. And these things happen: these people leave us, or don’t love us, or don’t get us, or we don’t get them, and we lose and fail and hurt one another. And the vessel starts to crack open in placed. And I mean, yeah, once the vessel cracks open, the end becomes inevitable. […] But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it’s only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs.”
— Paper Towns: Agloe – Pages 237-238