Looking for Alaska by John Green
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
First Published: March 3rd, 2005
Publisher: Dutton BFYR
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Boarding School, Carpe Diem, First Love, Mystery
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.
‘‘We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations.’’
It seems to me that John Green is obsessed with enigmatic girls. Alaska is the perfect example. She is a puzzle to everyone, especially Miles, the new kid at Culver Creek Boarding School.
The moment he sees her, it’s love at first sight for him, but not for her. Miles was not the popular type at his old school, so he’ll do almost anything to fit in at Culver Creek and win Alaska’s heart.
It’s impressive how well John Green remembers what it’s like to be an inexperienced and introverted teenager who’d rather say inside and read books than fool around with friends.
But Alaska and his roommate Chip have a huge negative influence on him. He starts smoking, drinking, pranking and kissing, all of which he never did before. He’s fine with it though, because he changed schools to live new experiences.
I will not claim that this book made me look at life in a different way, seeing that it didn’t. It is not ‘‘inspirational’’ or ‘‘beautiful,’’ but I find that it does discuss various significant subjects, such as life after death, loyalty among people, coping with regrets and the importance of being surrounded by friends who care about you.
While I do not condone Miles’ smoking and drinking, it would be ridiculous to never encounter characters taking part in such activities in YA novels, since it cannot be denied that many teenagers do smoke and drink.
We just have to remember that moderation and smart decisions are necessary when smoking and drinking. Unfortunately, those are two of the things the characters do not care about, hence the very unfortunate event in part two.
This is an enjoyable story, because the characters are crazy, bold, creative and surprising. They form a curious group that cannot be broken apart, as it is indestructible. This is exactly what Miles needed and I’m glad he found it, even if his life would have been less dramatic if he hadn’t changed schools.
Should he have stayed at his old school? Yes, we can live a tranquil, balanced, predictable and safe life if that’s what we want. But if we want to live a life full of surprises, adventure and dangerous moments of bliss, we have to be aware that there are risks involved.
So there are lessons to be learned from this book. Miles would agree that Culver Creek taught him a lot, and changed him eventually.
The most important lesson, in my opinion, is the following: Self-destructive behaviour will be your undoing if you do not open up about your deepest and darkest feelings and seek the help of a professional.
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