"She's just so smart and interesting," he tells PEOPLE of the model-actress

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Credit: Anthony Behar/Sipa; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Best known for her myriad ad campaigns and runway walks, model Cara Delevingne has spent even more time in front of the camera recently – only this time, acting.

Delevingne, 22, will make her big-screen breakout in this summer’s adaptation of John Green’s 2008 best seller Paper Towns, in which she plays enigmatic Orlando teen Margo Roth Spiegelman.

“She’s just so smart and so interesting, and who knows better than Cara what it’s like to have people look at a two-dimensional image of you and make broad conclusions? That’s what Paper Towns is about, and she embodies that character brilliantly,” the author told PEOPLE Tuesday night at the TIME 100 gala in N.Y.C. “She understands Margo Roth Spiegelman better than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. She knows what it’s like to be misimagined, she knows how the male gaze shapes and distorts personhood, and she brought that to the part.”

The author, 37, who also penned YA hit The Fault in Our Stars (which shot Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley to fame with last year’s adaption), didn’t meet the model-actress until after she was cast, but she won him over right away.

“She’s a special person. I’ve never met anyone quite like Cara,” says Green. “You have all of these ideas about supermodels, and the great thing about Cara is that even not in her acting career but in her just living personhood, she deconstructs all of those ideas brilliantly and beautifully. And that’s the case of her performance in Paper Towns as well.”

Delevingne stars opposite Nat Wolff, who costarred with Elgort and Woodley in Fault and whom Green considers “one of my closest friends.”

Wolff, 20, plays Q, who has a crush on Delevingne’s character.

“Their chemistry was ridiculous,” says Green. “When they are together, you are desperate for them to be together more. That’s how I felt.”

Paper Towns hits theaters July 24.

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