Quentin and Radar drive back to the minimall. They dig through the box of maps and brochures until they find a map with pinholes in it. They find a 1972 map of the U.S. by the Esso Company that has pinholes, but is pretty badly ripped, making it difficult to determine the exact locations that Margo had pinned. There are holes in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. One of the rips is in somewhere near Woodstock in New York State. That night, back at home, Quentin reads the Whitman poem again and instant messages with Lacey, Radar, and Ben about Margo.
Though they’re all taking finals, Quentin and his friends are still preoccupied with Margo. Ben and Lacey have a theory that Margo will return for graduation because it would take her exactly that long to drive to all the points plotted on the map and back again. Radar tells the group, unrelatedly, that he built a computer program that allows someone to enter a word on Omnictionary and read the first sentences of a hundred articles about that topic on one page. On the last day of school, Quentin cleans out his locker and finds himself overcome with emotion about leaving high school. He starts jogging away from school and feels liberated, noting that Margo must have felt the same when she left. Ben and Radar drive up beside him and pick him up.
Quentin tries to figure out where Margo is, going over and over the points on the map and the Whitman poem, but can’t put it together. Friday morning is graduation morning. Quentin’s parents give him a car for graduation, and he is ecstatic until he sees that it’s a minivan. He soon realizes that even though the car might be dorky, he’s excited to have his own car.
Quentin instant messages his friends about his new car. Radar asks if he can put a cooler in the back containing the leftover beer from his party. Quentin starts browsing Omnictionary using Radar’s new computer program to try and figure out some of the geographic clues. He discovers an entry for Agloe, New York, a fake town created by the Esso company. Paper towns, Quentin learns, are also another term for copyright traps, or fictitious towns that mapmakers would put on maps to figure out if somebody were plagiarizing them. On the discussion page for Agloe, an anonymous user has posted, “fyi, whoever Edits this––the Population of agloe Will actually be One until may 29th at Noon.” The comment, undoubtedly left by Margo, who capitalizes her words at random, had been left fifteen days ago. The day is May twenty-eighth, and Quentin realizes he has just under twenty-four hours to make it to Agloe before Margo leaves.
Quentin calls Radar and Ben, who convince him to swing by school and pick them and the beer up. Quentin floors it to school in his new car and breathlessly tells his parents that he’s going to find Margo in New York instead of walk at graduation. Lacey, Ben, Radar, and Quentin all hop in Quentin’s minivan, and they take off for Agloe.
After the events of the after-prom party, and after spending most of the night in the minimall, Quentin becomes increasingly obsessed with finding Margo. For Quentin, solving this mystery is tied to becoming an adulthood. Quentin goes through the motions to finish his final exams and prepare himself for graduation, but his heart clearly isn’t in it. Instead, he is completely preoccupied with the whereabouts of Margo Roth Spiegelman, and with the fantasy of heroically rescuing her. Quentin’s image of triumphantly finishing high school was never to be prom king, or to walk in his graduation robes. Now, he has placed all sense of success and failure in his ability to figure out the mystery and to save Margo.