Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Love, Loathing, and Indifference

I loved Paper Towns, by John Green, from page 232 to page 284. Fifty pages of awesomeness; one sixth of the book. I didn’t hate it before that (or after) – I was mostly just indifferent. As a reader, that is.

As a writer, I as captivated by the whole book. I loved the idea of exploring character through the perceptions of everyone around her. (Of course I did, I have a blog about character.)

When Margo Roth Spiegelman disappears, Quentin starts his own hunt to find clues to her disappearance. She’s disappeared before. Usually she shows up a few weeks later with a new unbelievable, but true, story. Searching through Margo’s clues makes Quentin sure he is the one who must find her. These clues are personal.

Along the way he learns all sorts of things about Margo, and none of them are what he expected. Every person she came in contact with had another concept of Margo. Quentin has to piece them all together to find the girl behind the one he thought he knew.

As a character study, this book was fascinating. So why was I so indifferent to it? For the first two-thirds of the book, I just wanted Quentin to get up and DO something. He was searching, but in a lackadaisical way. He let his life interfere too many times to keep me spellbound as a reader. Things perked up on page 232.

For the next fifty pages, things were great from this reader’s standpoint. Green kept the beautiful character study going, revealing bits of Margo (and Quentin and the gang) as Quentin and his friends headed out to rescue her. Then they found her.

Let me just say, John Green does a fabulous job of creating characters. I had real feelings about them all through the book. Through the course of the book, all of those little pieces added up to a flawed individual. Usually I like that. Unfortunately, I discovered at the end that I loathe Margo Roth Spiegelman. I wasn’t indifferent to her. That means Green did his job extremely well.

That is my goal. I want to be able to evoke feeling in my readers. If that means they hate my character, well, bring it on, I guess. Just don’t put down the book. Love me, hate me, but please keep reading.

What do you think? Where is the line drawn between beautiful characterization and a book you end up putting down for good?