John Green’s first novel is my favourite of his books. And I like them all. But this one is AWESOME. There are twists and turns and suspense and angst and it leaves you feeling like you have been kicked in the stomach. It. Is. GREAT.
Looking For Alaska centres around the Culver Creek Boarding School, and Miles “Pudge” Halter. Miles rocks. He is the very reason I love this book. He is clueless and smart and a bit of a social zero. He is obsessed with famous last words, and craves the “Great Perhaps” (Francois Rabelais, poet). He wants boring and safe, but gets the very opposite, becoming attached-at-the-hip friends with the Colonel, and not so secretly in love with Alaska.
Alaska is snarky and full of herself and self-destructive and sexy and so so alive. She chooses her name and her friends the same way: impulsively and immediately. Green builds Alaska so wonderfully, so vibrantly, with all her strengths and weakness, that you feel her joy and pain. She proves to Miles it is worth it to leave behind his minor life for grander maybes.
Together, the two of them search for the meaning of the labyrinth, and the way out. Alaska finds it. And Miles realizes that maybe he is meant to remain in it.
Green’s writing is poetic and evocative. “She was the type of jeans that you wear when you want to look nice but don’t want it to look like you tried to look nice…” It never occurred to me that men understood that concept, until Green wrote it.
He writes authentic, fantastic characters. I loved Alaska, but equally so Miles and the Colonel. I was them, once upon a time, trying to figure everything out, all at once. Feeling everything so much more than anyone else. Green does not reach for the happy ending, but he does allow the characters to resolve their challenges and come to their own conclusions. “Coming of age” is a term I feel is overused and miss-used, but here is a book that is the very definition.
Looking For Alaska did not make me cry. But it did make me pause and remember what it was like to be that teen. I loved the use of the before/after countdown; the days leading up to the event and the ones following as the friends came to terms with it were real and familiar.
This is a good book for teens. I would say the themes are too mature for the younger readers, but those 14 and up will enjoy.
Looking For Alaska is published by Speak.