SparkNotes Blog

EXCLUSIVE: We Talked to John Green and Paper Towns’ Halston Sage About High School Do-Overs, Terrible Kisses, and Big Adventures

WE ARE AT LEVEL NINE JOHN GREEN FREAKOUT OVER HERE: Not only did we attend a special fan preview of Paper Towns and rev the gas pedal in our minivans repeatedly over the PAPER TOWNS MOVIE TRAILER, but we got to sit down with King John Green and Halston Sage, who plays Lacey in the upcoming movie (July 24! How will we wait???) to discuss getting lost, TURRIBLE KISSES, Holden Caulfield, how to do crush at prom, and, OH YEAH, Paper Towns (duh).

For your fanfic research, John Green was JUST AS FUNNY AS YOU IMAGINE in your day dreams where you run into him in an Indiana supermarket and make hilarious small-talk over a packet of hot dog buns, and Halston Sage was PRETTY WELL ADORABLE and made me want to put her in my pocket for when I next re-read Paper Towns and get bluesy over the ending. The two of them made the Paper Towns shoot sound like the best camping trip of all of our lives, and made me generally ELECTRIFIED AT A NEURAL LEVEL to see the next John Green MEGAMORPH (movie adaptation) this summer. I mean, I don’t want to talk too soon, but I’m PRETTY SURE THOSE CRACKERS WHO MADE TFIOS HAVE DONE IT AGAIN.

Read on for the MOST John Green things coming out of John Green’s mouth, then freak out in the comments (I did not manage to keep my cool in this interview, because I know that none of you truly expected that of me).

SparkLife: Paper Towns is an adventure story, but if Homer wanted to go on his Odyssey today, his mom would be like, “Okay, but you have to have the ship back by dark.” Is it harder for a teen to have an adventure today?

Halston Sage: Yeah, there are cellphones.

John Green: Yes! Your parents can just call you. I think the way that adventure works has changed, but I think teenagers will always find ways to go on journeys and to find adventure. And in Paper Towns we tried to keep it as authentic as possible to real teen experience, while still letting them go on this great journey. But yeah, kids still sneak out.

SL: Margo is this great mystery, and usually it’s female characters who make themselves into these enigmas—although I can see Gus Waters putting out a crazy trail of crumbs!—but it’s mostly girls. Why do you think that is?

John: I think a lot of it is the male gaze, I think some of it might be that there is something attractive to people about that manic pixie dream girl trope, but a lot of it is how boys see them. So Margo in the book is always being seen through Q’s eyes, and it’s not really until the end of the story that he realizes that he has been imposing a lot of his own expectations on Margo that have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with her at all. He hasn’t been seeing her as a person at all, he’s been seeing her as an object to be won.

And that’s what the book is about, but going back to The Odyssey, I think these have always been stories about men by men that end in them slaying all the suitors and saving the woman. I tried in this story to destroy this lie that men exist to save women—Margo is not in need of saving, as she points out to Q the moment he gets back to her. She needs really nothing from him. What they both need is to better understand each other and to better listen to each other.


SL: Is there a book adventure you wish you could live out in real life?

John: We were just talking about that book you just read, what was it called, Brain on Fire? That’s a terrible one!

Halston: Brain on Fire. It’s about a woman who goes insane, it turns out just to be a virus, but she loses a year of her life.

John: People think she is going crazy but really she just has a crazy form of meningitis.

Halson: Yeah! It’s a true story (laughs)

John: For me, I would like to be able to walk about New York for a few days in 1953 with Holden Caulfield


Halston: Oh I love that one.

SL: The ducks are just coming back!


SL: What would be the most embarrassing album that you own?

John: Hmmm, what is it for me? I’M NOT EMBARRASSED BY ANY OF MY MUSIC.

Halston: I listen to a lot of ’80s music. 

John: Do you? That is disgusting.

Halton: I LOVE IT.

John: I own a lot of music that I think would surprise people—(to Halston) you guys introduced me to lots of music from Earl Sweatshirt to Kendrick Lamar, but I have a lot of Taylor Swift, I have the full Taylor Swift oeuvre.

SL: HERE IS A QUANDARY: Would you rather a terrible kiss that winds up as an awkward teeth bump with someone you like, or a good kiss with someone that you’re only “meh” about?

Halston: Well if it’s a good kiss I think I might end up liking them.

John: *Lets out the loudest, snortiest, awesomest HAR HAR HAR* I was going to say terrible teeth bump with someone I like because then we can like grow together and get better at kissing together, but your policy is just like, if its a good kiss then I’m into you by definition.

Halston: Right, like there is some magic there.

John: I will say that it is impossible to have a really good kiss with someone you don’t like. You have to like them, but you can have a really bad kiss with someone you really like, because I did with my wife, our first kiss. Horrible. So bad.

Halston: AWWW, I LOVE IT. That gives me hope!

SL: Do you guys gave any advice for prom?

John: Oh, yeah, have fun and don’t worry too much about whether your’e gonna hook up or with whom, or whether you’re going to go or with whom, because most of your memories are going to of your friends.

Halston: I didn’t have a prom because I went to an all-girl’s school.



John: Yeah, you didn’t have an all-boy’s school where you teamed up for prom?

Halston: We didn’t! Someone messed up, you should write a letter. We had no boy’s school. It was a mistake, but we did have prom in Paper Towns, and to the effect that John said, it’s just about being with your friends, that’s what it’s about.

John: The prom in Paper Towns really was for all of you guys—you got to dress up, you got to dance, you got to party and you got to be with people you love.



Are you FIT TO BURSTING with excitement for Paper Towns AND/OR a desire to see how John Green would dance at prom? WHO ARE YOU WITH ON THE KISSING: HALSTON OR JOHN?? Do you have the full Taylor Swift oeuvre?