3 Ways the Paper Towns Movie Differs from the Book
The film adaptation of John Green’s young adult novel Paper Towns hit theaters this weekend, with Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff starring as the two adventure-seeking teens from the book's story. But like with most book adaptations, the movie's screenplay, which was written by The Fault in Our Stars screenwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, doesn't stick to the book's plot entirely. There are a few major switch-ups in the road trip-focused film, throwing off even the most diehard fans of Green's novels.
Specifically, there are three differences that distinguish the book from the film, for better and for worse. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
1. Angela goes from minor to major character.
Radar’s girlfriend, Angela, isn't a major character in the book. She stays in Orlando, FL, instead of joining Lacey, Quentin, and Ben on their road trip. But in the film, after she and Radar discuss the status of their relationship, Angela decides to join the adventure—and that's a good thing. In addition to bringing out a different side of Radar, she also helps balance out the dynamic of the group. So while Quentin, Ben, and Radar start out as a trio of BFFs, Lacey and Angela go from outsiders to besties as they're immersed into the group. Even Green is a fan of Angela's boosted presence in the movie's plot.
2. The road trip happens at a different time.
In the film, the group plans their road trip in order to make it to prom—and Margo edits the town's Omnictionary entry to say that it will soon have a population of one. But in the book, the teens leave high school graduation early to find Margo before she leaves Agloe, which will have a population of one until a more specific date: May 29th at noon. Quentin, Ben, and Radar have to rush to beat the clock before Margo leaves Agloe for good, and Quentin still misses prom when he decides to explore the abandoned mini mall (a souvenir shop in the film) instead of going to the high school dance. The novel amps up the dramatic prospect of missing prom, with Quentin and his friends franticly leaving Orlando in their graduation robes to prove just how head-over-heels and irrational his love for Margo truly is.
3. The stories end at different points.
The Paper Towns novel ends with a shocker. There's no return to Orlando or any picture-perfect high school dance scene. Instead, Margo is on bad terms with Lacey and has a conversation with Quentin in which he realizes that he's always pictured her the way he wanted to see her. The end of the novel comes almost abruptly, as Q and Margo kiss before they part. There is no hint to what will happen to either of them, save for the knowledge that they are going their separate ways. However, the movie elaborates on Quentin’s supposed lessons that he learned from Margo. As the two grab milkshakes after Margo’s initial shock at seeing him, Q describes all the things that he learned from Margo. Even after she expressed her disdain for being pegged a manic pixie dream girl, Q still doesn’t seem to see her as anything more than a figure that helped him find himself. And at the end, she still remains a myth to Q as he returns home—just in time to join his friends at prom. The film gives more closure to Quentin’s story than the book, glossing over Green’s tale with a rose-tinted perspective. While both mediums tell a story of "boy meets manic pixie dream girl," the book dispels that trope with more aggression. The novel hews closer to real life, without offering unrealistic closure.
Even with the differences, there's plenty in common to like. So what's one thing that you can expect from both versions of Paper Towns? Plenty of adventure.