Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars

20th Century Fox

Anyone who's seen The Fault in Our Stars knows full well the phenomenon of crying in public. That s--t is devastating, and there's no other way to say it. 

Personally, I can confess to falling victim to the sob story in a very, very big way. Like many other non-Young Adults, I went in to my screening of The Fault in Our Stars without having first read John Green's novel, and just a minimal understanding of the plot—Shailene Woodley has cancer, she falls in love with a kid who used to have cancer, they go to Amsterdam and kiss on a bench. I was almost cocky as the movie unfolded, convinced that I was prepared for Hazel's inevitable death, and I mentally mocked the YA gods for constantly churning out such predictable tales. 

But then, well, I was wrong. So very wrong. Without giving away any spoilers (in consideration of the four individuals left in the world who haven't heard how Fault ends), I was crushed. I cried not just cute little sniffles, but huge hulking sobs that take your breath away. I cried in the movie theater, along with pretty much everyone else in attendance. I cried by myself in the car on the way home. I cried the next day when I tried to explain the movie to someone else. Remember that scene from Something's Gotta Give where Diane Keaton is sobbing all over the Hamptons? That was me, only not nearly as charming.

Since I like to learn from my mistakes, I went into my viewing of Paper Towns with a less-hardened attitude. I again did not read the book first, both for authenticity and because, as previously mentioned, I am no longer a teenager. For those unfamiliar with the plot, here's what Paper Towns deals with: A suicide, a runaway teenager, a graduation and multiple breakups. So is it as much of a tearjerker as its movie predecessor? Not in the least.

It takes a while to come to terms with this fact—it's John Green, after all! He pays for his mansions with the tears of America's youth. (And how do you think he filled his swimming pool?) As such, during the first act it's only natural to start to feel that familiar lump in one's throat, in anticipation only. The viewer assumes (and prepares for) total tragedy. For my part, I was convinced that someone was going to die; it could be anyone, really. (My money was on Margo, the longtime unrequited love of the main character Quentin and the subject of the movie's central hunt after she runs away, but that was mostly for convenience purposes). As Margo and Quentin slow-danced on the top of the Sun Trust building after a night full of successful pranks, I thought, "...and that was the last time anybody saw her alive. Bring it, tears."

But then they never came. There I was sitting in the theater, watching Margo go missing, watching Quentin attempt to decipher all of the crazy clues she left, watching the gang of teens go on a spontaneous road trip to Upstate New York to find Margo...and nothing. Then with each passing minute of dry eyeballs, I started to get angry at this lack of tears. I didn't come all this way just to chuckle knowingly at an adorable group of teens making quirky jokes about high school parties and losing their virginity! And I certainly didn't come all this way just to watch them successfully find Margo and bring her back home. Somebody needs to die!

Now I promise, I'm not normally so vengeful, but this is what John Green does to people. Without giving away any major spoilers, let's just say I never got my sobfest. What I did get, however, were some adorably crafted coming-of-age moments that were able to slightly melt my now-black heart. Tears, no, but knowing smiles, nostalgic laughs and lumps in the throat aplenty (which, I should point out, is more than anyone can say for Fault). Some of these moments were cheesy, of course, but at least I felt feelings.

That's John Green for you—just when you think you're going to boil over with rage and annoyance he manages to close a movie in a way that shows you all the tragedies of growing up and moving on. There was even a scene of teenage self-reflection to a Bon Iver song! What is a person supposed to do with that besides mourn their own lost childhood? (RIP, by the way).

In the end, it was probably a good think that Paper Towns was less of a tearjerker after all. At least I have my dignity.

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