Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult
Publication date: March 2005
Number of Pages: 272
Amazon Plot Synopsis: Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.
“You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking how you’ll escape one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” ~ Looking for Alaska
Why did I read the book: Two years ago I read The Fault in our Stars. Since then I have read a few other John Green books and been quite amused with his writings. He is currently one of my favorite authors.
Review: I like a lot of people, have jumped on the John Green wagon in the past couple years, but this author has been writing books since 2005. Looking for Alaska was his first novel and won the Printz Award in 2006.
This is such a hard book to review without giving any spoilers, but I will try my best not to give anything away. The book is divided into two sections: before and after. I won’t give away the event that divides the two sections. The chapters are titled X days before, counting down to the event. As the days got closer I found myself on edge waiting for this big event to happen. This book isn’t one packed full of action but John Green spends a lot of time on character development. Much of this time is spent on developing the main character, Miles. I think Miles would be a very relatable character for a lot of people. He is a little bit awkward and gawky, more of a follower than leader, he’s a realist almost to the point of being cynical, and he’s a very loyal friend. Green does an amazing job creating a rag tag team of relatable characters, which is my favorite part of his novels.
The before part of the book Miles leaves home for boarding school at Culver Creek. He meets some dynamic characters: (Alaska, “the Colonel” and Takumi) who become his best friends. This group of friends pull off some epic pranks and share a really special friendship.
Miles really develops an unusual relationship with Alaska, to him she symbolizes the Great Perhaps. A lot of people have conflicting opinions about Alaska’s personality. Sometimes she did come off as a cool, mysterious girl and other times she seemed manipulative and a little over the top as a character. The book and the relationship between Alaska and Miles could feel a little melodramatic at times but being a book written about high school, it’s pretty accurate.
The book’s themes are varied. It’s very much a coming of age book. It focuses on friendship, and first loves. The book also focuses on suffering and the idea of being stuck in “the labyrinth.” At first their idea of suffering is typical teenage stuff like: parents who don’t understand, embarrassment, and unexpressed feelings. As the book goes on these childish problems fade away and the characters each have to wrestle with some really tough questions.
I would recommend this book for a friend. It’s a good quick read with some really great themes and the characters John Green creates are unique and intriguing.
Reading Next: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Montgomery