Looking back on Looking for Alaska
Looking For Alaska by John Green
Looking for Alaska is the tale of Miles Halter as he heads off to boarding school at Culver Creek, in search of “the great prehaps.” Miles is obsessed with the last words of famous people and his new hall mate, the troubled and sexy Alaska Young.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a John Green book without the nicknames. In this one we’ve got Miles “Pudge” Halter and his roommate, Chip “The Colonel” Martin. Interestingly, Alaska Young is actually named Alaska.
I first read this book in the spring of 2010 in a young adult literature class for my master’s. I wasn’t reviewing books formally then, but I did keep a list of the ones I’d read with notes about each (can be found in the “50 Books 2010″ tab above). For Looking For Alaska I wrote, “Sad. But no crying. Just very very sad.” I wrote a post about Looking For Alaska and Paper Towns last February when I listed my 15 favorite books of all time. I ranked them (together) as #6. You can check out that post here.
What I love about it
This little gem won the Printz Award in 2005, and it definitely deserved it. Looking for Alaska was the very first John Green book that I ever read. I was hooked. Green manages to speak to the teenage experience without downplaying the real emotions that teenagers feel. Are these characters a little pretentious? Yes. Too quick-witted? Yes. But I’ll tell you right now that these kids do exist in the real world. Believe me, I hung out with them.
What kept me going in the story was the use of the countdown to the mysterious event. I wanted to know what the story kept counting down to. The book is divided into two parts: before and after. The before part was typical ya angsty boarding school fiction (which I love) with lots of smoking, drinking, pranks, and sex. The second part is what made the story great, taking it beyond the typical to a book about life and death.
This book sticks with me because of the event in the middle. I think about it a lot. There are many questions in my mind, but they will never be answered and I’ll have to stick with my own conclusion about what really happened. That’s why I love to talk about it with anyone that will listen!
“Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’. I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”
“I just did some calculations and I’ve been able to determine that you’re full of shit.”
“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”