“I didn’t really look down and think about how everything was made of paper. I looked down and thought about how I was made of paper. I was the flimsy-foldable person, not everyone else […] People love the idea of a paper girl. They always have. And the worst thing is that I loved it, too. I cultivated it, you know?”
This quotation occurs in Part Three, in Agloe, in the final section of the book, and is spoken by Margo. Margo is telling Quentin her whole story about why she felt that she had to run away. Throughout the entire novel, the reader is led to believe that “paper towns” refer to a specific kind of fake geographic place. However, even though she crafts her own escape around running away to a place off the map, the concept of a paper town is, ultimately, a metaphor for the way Margo feels inside. When she looks at a paper town, it’s not the town that’s hollow and fake, but Margo herself. Margo feels like she’s always trying to craft the perfect image of herself, to be a particular kind of person for the world. For a while, she loved the attention that being a paper girl brought her, and she loved fulfilling the fantasy image of herself both for her own sake and for the sake of others. Now, however, Margo feels the pressure to be all things to all people, and she wants to get rid of her paper self so that she can simply be Margo Roth Spiegelman.