First thing, I should mention that I got sad Margo from the library. (I said, when I checked out “Oh. It’s sad Margo. I was hoping for happy Margo.” The librarian looked at me funny.) When the book was released, my gut instinct was to go with happy Margo — it’s a much more attractive cover, and I like yellow. But after finishing the book, I think the sad Margo (who doesn’t really look “sad”) is probably the more accurate one.
Quentin has lived next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman since he was two years old. And he has harbored a crush on her for nearly as long. So when Margo pops into his room at midnight, three weeks to graduation, he’s unable to refuse her night of revenge and list-crossing. It’s this experience, fueled by his crush that drives him, when she disappears the next day, to obsessively follow her clues to figure out the mystery that is Margo.
Okay. So that’s the basic plot. But, like any John Green (like Margo Roth Spiegelman, John Green is just the sort of name you kind of have to say together) book, it’s not really about that. It’s one part mystery, one part road trip, and two parts unraveling. I liked the road trip part best, personally, but unlike Looking for Alaska, I actually enjoyed Q’s journey of self- and other-discovery. The book is anchored in Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” (which I’ve actually never read, but now kind of want to), and the exploration of the way we interact with each other. The “mirrors and windows” as Green puts it. Q spends a lot of time wandering and sluffing off the last three weeks of school, intially because he wants to find Margo (the physical being), but eventually because he wants to understand Margo (the person). There’s a difference, and I think Green explores that both humorously and poignantly. And what Q discovers is why I said the sad Margo cover fits Margo, the character, better. The ending is both bittersweet and absolutely perfect, which I also appreciated.
Is it his best book? Hmm… probably not. (It’s not my favorite, either, but I did like it.) But it’s a good book. And a good book is always worth reading. Especially if it’s written by John Green.