Quentin, a self-proclaimed “well-adjusted” high school senior of middling popularity, is suddenly commandeered one night by his fascinatingly eccentric classmate and neighbor, Margot—asked to act as her accomplice in a series of delinquent acts of vengeance. Having been “in love” with Margot (or, let’s face it, simply infatuated with the idea of her and not knowing the difference) since grade school, Quentin reluctantly joins in her pranks and is eventually rewarded by quality time with the mysterious diva-of-deviousness. The next day, Margot disappears. Quentin quickly gleans the impression that she’s left a trail of convoluted proverbial breadcrumbs for him to follow. He does so, almost obsessively—with the help of a few semi-cooperative friends. But whether or not Margot wants to be found (literally or otherwise) is a recurring question.
For a book that’s often touted as road-trip centric, I was a little disappointed to find that the actual road tripping occurred in only the last few chapters. And the road-trip part wasn’t so much a planned adventure as it was a frantic act of impulse. Up until then, the plot could be described as a night of madcap pranks, followed by a long and angsty adolescent scavenger hunt. There’s lots of middle lag to push through. For a while you’re on edge, strung along by the fear that Margo has killed herself and she means for Q to find her body. But once that bit of morbidity is belayed and the mystery resumed, the pacing drops to sometimes dangerously put-downable levels.
At first I thought Margo was the fun kind of crazy. But after the first dozen chapters, I began to think she might be the Borderline Personality Disorder kind of crazy. I’m a little surprised, given both his parent’s backgrounds, that Quentin never considered if the erratic girl he was enchanted with might have a serious mental illness. Anyone who’s known someone like Margo is likely to find it even more difficult to sympathize with such a character. (I do and have, so I can’t say I wasn’t a bit soured toward the concept of her ahead of time.) High charisma blended with grandiose narcissism makes for an entertaining, yet ultimately malignant combination.
There was a good deal of this book that was relational—in which not a lot was going on outside of social ladder shuffling. Although, there was a moment where rampant teenage selfishness is not only acknowledged, but laid bare to the reader from multiple angles, courtesy of the ever level-headed Radar. (Radar actually stands out as the most interesting and balanced side-character—the anchor of reality and a perpetual source of intellect.)
Those who’ve read The Fault In Our Stars first will likely find it difficult to work up as much care and connectivity to this story—which, by comparison, comes off a bit shallow and philosophically indulgent.
One of the more meaningful themes of this book was the idea that people tend to make assumptions and jump to inaccurate conclusions about others—including those we should know best. A valuable thing for the target audience to chew on, no doubt. But I’m afraid the pacing combined with the bland, unsatisfying resolution makes this story stoop head and shoulder below some of Green’s other works.
"Nothing ever happens like you imagine it will… But then again, if you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all."