TITLE: Looking for Alaska
AUTHOR: John Green
PUBLISHER: Dutton Children’s Books
NO. OF PAGES: 297
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction
Do I recommend it? I don’t! Unless you’re a fan of the author and want to read just for the writing.
Before. 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.
Considering the fact that Looking for Alaska was John Green’s debut book; I was stupefied by the way it has been written. It refreshed my list of favourite authors and John Green is visible on it again. However, this book made me realise one very important fact about writing a book: Only good writing is not enough to make a really good book. And yet, John Green won the 2006 Printz Award for this book. I hope it was for his writing because that was totally worth it then.
About ninety-five per cent of the novel is set on the premises of Culver Creek Boarding School. And boarding schools are bound to give a resident an experience of a lifetime. And maybe that experience was what Miles was seeking out (the Great Perhaps). I liked the setting. It was quite visual with the lake, the woods, the barn, the dorm area, and everything else.
1. Miles “Pudge” Halter
To be honest, I usually do not like the main characters of a book. It was no different this time. However, I’d like to believe that Miles was just the eyes through which we saw the “main character’s” story. And I wish we had better eyes to view with.
Miles was pretentious. His obsession with the last words of famous people was a unique trait but it was also bothering me a lot because I could predict why this trait was chosen for this book. And I didn’t like it. In that process, he was also romanticising death and being recently struck by quite a few losses in my personal life, all I could care about was, “It freaking doesn’t matter what someone’s last words were.” Moreover, it disgusted me the way he thought he loved Alaska whereas what he actually loved was her sexy presence in front of his eyes. It surely is possible to get attracted to someone because of their physical appearance but that is not “love” and considering how “mature” he pretended to be, this whole part about Miles being in love with Alaska Young disgusted me.
2. Chip “Colonel” Martin
Colonel was a tolerable character as per my opinion. He was one of those persons who go about making friends without judging. And he was a good friend, no matter how much he thinks he wasn’t. It seemed that he was the most mature of all the characters and yet not mature enough. I liked how serious he was about his life goals and yet also knew how to have fun. His sense of responsibility when it came to taking care of his mother was commendable. Even after all that, he wasn’t that memorable of a character at all.
3. Takumi and Lara
Both of these were just shadow characters and even their small presence in the course of the story was just okayish. Takumi was as infuriating as Miles though.
4. Alaska Young
Last but not least, the titular character of Alaska Young was one of the best things about this book – after the writing. Alaska’s character was relatable in its rawest sense. She was independent, intelligent, strong, and real. Her character had layers and I loved that. She was a feminist, a reader, a daughter, a friend, and most importantly, a human. A human who had made mistakes and was living with them instead of running off to somewhere new. She strutted off in those corridors of Culver Creek with an abundance of mystery that anybody who saw her, was bound to feel something for her.
However, what Miles loved about her were the full breasts and her sexy curves. He loved the idea of her being under a veil of mystery so much that he hardly made any effort to try to know her. He loved to think that he was in love with her whereas he was always annoyed with the real parts of Alaska Young (her moodiness, her unpredictability, and impulsiveness). Alaska was no doubt a brilliant character with a tragic life story but I wish she was given the love and respect she deserved rather than what the “men” of this book thought she “would like”.
Plot & Structure
I have to admit that the story was structured really well. No complaints there. The plot was okayish. I mean, it did make me read continuously and that can happen with good storytelling only. I wanted to know what happens next and the book was a mild page-turner in its own way.
This book deals with a lot of serious themes. Firstly, the book is about friendship. Secondly, it’s about sadness. Every character has something going on in their lives and their way to deal with that stuff was what this book is all about. As much as I’d like to throw the pillow of “mental health” in here, my heart knows that it was rather an “unhealthy mental state”. Then there’s a flimsy thread of feminism that Alaska tried her best to pull through. And lastly, it deals with the dealing of loss. Being someone who was (maybe still is) going through the same, I’d say I understand how it feels.
Quick Question: Which is your favorite Young Adult Fiction book?