Paper Towns may open with a suicide, but it ends on a hopeful note: Q recognizes that Margo is far more real than he'd given her credit for, and Margo gallivants off to start a life beyond Florida. (Let's assume that, if you're reading a post called "What Does The End Of Paper Towns Mean?" you're spoiler-proofed.) But it's far from the most satisfying conclusion — so what happens after the end of Paper Towns ?
Fan theories and alternate endings abound. John Green wrote the current ending in a 7,000-page writing binge, which he describes on his website as the “most productive two days" he can remember. But before it reached the ending presented in the film, Green wrote a couple of alternates. The first concluded with an earthquake in Kashmir and a miniature-model city. The next finished in an Iowa theme park. Next came Agloe, and then the idea that Q's friends would accompany him on his road trip. (It keeps evolving, too — in the film adaptation, Angela also accompanies the friends on the road trip.) As far as the ending's ambiguity goes, though, Green has kept a pretty tight seal.
"There are always questions that a reader can ask about what happens after the end of a story; there is always more to tell," he writes on his website. "For me, that’s one of the pleasures of reading." He cites the conclusion to Harry Potter by way of example — though readers are left with some resolved relationships and a sense of the trajectory of the future, there are still unknowns like, when will these characters die? What happens to their children? These are things that, Green feels, are really better left to our imaginations.
In a film adaptation, fans always run the risk of disappointment (Eragon, anyone?), but Green's involvement in Paper Towns has kept it in pretty pristine condition. The already cinematic novel adapts well to the screen, and the result is sensitive without being sappy, and doesn't feel the impulse to tie up all the loose threads that make the novel so wonderfully ambiguous. That being said, Green did experiment with an alternate screenplay in which Q ends up with Margo's best friend Lacey. “It was terrible on a bunch of levels," he told HuffPost Live. "I think fans would not have liked it."
Some ambiguity also leaves room for some exciting theories about what happens to the characters after the screen has gone dark and the last page has been turned. Part of what makes fandoms so tight-knit is the exchange of ideas and questions and answers. I'm a flag-waving, card-carrying, Twitter-following John Green fan, too, and Paper Towns left me with as many imagined futures for its characters as it did questions. I want to believe that after their parking-lot-make-out session, Margo goes off on thrilling world adventures, Q gets the hell out of Orlando, and they meet again some day, more experienced, more equipped to acknowledge each other as autonomous individuals, and maybe just maybe the boy gets the girl. Or, considering it's world-class badass Margo Roth Spiegelman we're talking about, the girl gets the boy.
But who knows? Paper Towns probably won't ever have a sequel, and there are plenty of other Green-created plotlines to worry about, such as what's gonna happen in the movie version of Looking for Alaska . Still, it's hard to stop wondering: what if? But that's the beauty of Paper Towns — it gives you plenty to hold onto, and still leaves you wanting more.
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