This review was originally posted on amazon on June 7, 2012:
This is my second John Green book, although it will not be my last. I already have An Abundance of Katherine's available, and I am certain that I will, at some point, read Looking for Alaska. Mr. Green is an exceptional writer who writes lyrical and compelling books about his youthful characters. I loved this book only slightly less than I adored The Fault In Our Stars.
This book is primarily character driven. The plot is quite slender, actually, set in the final few days before the main character, Quentin, is set to graduate from high school. The book begins with a flashback of an event that occurred when Quentin was younger, and still best friends with his neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. Quentin is an ordinary young man, while Margo is quite extraordinary - one of those crucible-like characters that tends to clarify and refine the people in her orbit. Quentin has been in love with Margo from afar for years.
The book begins with a crazy night of brilliantly vindictive revenge, planned by Margo to wreak vengeance upon the people who, at this point, she perceives to have wronged her. Margo seeks an accomplice for her adventures, and asks Quentin to accompany her. The first part of the book is consumed by their edgy, Bueller-esque adventures. After that night, Margo disappears, and Quentin and his friends spend the remainder of the book trying to discover where she has gone, and whether she wants to be found, through the clues that Margo has left behind.
I loved this book. The first part of the book is genuinely funny - Margo is a criminal mastermind par excellence, plotting and executing her revenge with extraordinary precision and symmetry. I laughed out loud several times while I was reading it. Once that night of high-jinks and mayhem is completed, however, the book quickly becomes much more serious.
John Green has created a set of supporting characters that I will remember for a long time. Ben and Radar, Quentin's best friends, and Lacey, who was Margo's best friend and was the victim of one her crazy revenge plots, who was a much better friend to Margo than she realized. Somehow, when Margo leaves, Quentin manages to fill her power position in the school - a spot of blackmail always being useful - and Ben, Radar and Q really come into their own during the waning days of high school, in a way that anyone who has ever graduated from high school will appreciate.
Overall, this book is not as mature, perhaps, as The Fault In Our Stars, but it is the work of a writer who knows teens, who knows how to put together a sentence and tell a story. John Green has a knack, more than any other current writer, for avoiding cliches when he writes about teens. His characters are real, not merely stock representations pulled from the bank of angsty teen characters. They are flawed, interesting and complete.
If you aren't reading John Green, you should be.
Addendum to review:
John Green has actually lost some of his luster for me, not just because of his occasionally tone-deaf and condescending statements to and about readers, but also because I have begun to question his versatility. I like his books, but I'm not sure that he has much range.