A deeply affecting coming-of-age story, Looking for Alaska traces the journey of Miles Halter, a misfit Florida teenager who leaves the safety of home for a boarding school in Alabama and a chance to explore the “Great Perhaps.” Debut novelist and NPR commentator Green perfectly captures the intensity of feeling and despair that defines adolescence in this hip, shocking, and emotionally charged work of fiction.
Miles has a quirky interest in famous people’s last words, especially François Rabelais’s final statement, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” Determined not to wait for death to begin a similar quest, Miles convinces his parents to let him leave home. Once settled at Culver Creek Preparatory School, he befriends a couple of equally gifted outcasts: his roommate Chip―commonly known as the Colonel—who has a predilection for memorizing long, alphabetical lists for fun; and the beautiful and unpredictable Alaska, whom Miles comes to adore.
The kids grow closer as they make their way through a school year filled with contraband, tests, pranks, breakups, and revelations about family and life. But as the story hurtles toward its shattering climax, chapter headings like “forty-six days before” and “the last day” portend a tragic event―one that will change Miles forever and lead him to new conclusions about the value of his cherished “Great Perhaps.”
Before I started Looking For Alaska I had high expectations of the book simply because of the large proportion of people who seem to love John Green. Personally, I had not read a John Green book before but I didn’t want to start reading his books by jumping into The Fault In Our Stars and so I went to this book instead. Fortunately, I am happy to report that my expectations were met and that this book was incredibly good and one that I am incredibly glad that I took the chance to read. It is not a book that is all happy on life, but rather one that questions life and death and everything in between. It was a book that I loved reading and I feel that it was probably the perfect introduction to John Green.
Moving to a new school is never easy, even if you have decided to make the move yourself, and this book does a good job of reflecting on all the different things that occur in a new enviroment. It helped to make the book exciting and interesting, as we’re getting to know Miles’ friends at the same time as he is. But it’s the overall plot of this book that really keeps the reader going. As mentioned in the summary above, the chapters are seperated by “days before”, and “days after”. It’s never mentioned what it is referring to in the before section but you can’t help but feel this imminent dread. You want to embrace Miles’ new friendships, his new school life and all of the fun adventures he goes on, but there’s always this niggling in the back of your mind about what is actually going to happen, what is going to change? I found this to be a really unique and interesting way of setting out the chapters and it really helped to make this story that much more entertaining and enjoyable.
Miles was a character that was instantly admired. He was smart, risk-taking, but also incredibly cautious at times, always with a niggling feeling at the back of his mind. It was great to get to know more about him, to feel the emotions he was truly dealing with through his narrative voice, it was truly possible to know and understand everything that he was going through. I liked that about the book, and it helped to make me really like Miles that much more as well. I wanted things to be okay for him, wanted him to have the fresh start that he deserved. Alaska, on the other hand, wasn’t a character I particularly liked, I’m not sure what it was about her exactly but she just never seemed like a likable character to me. I could see why Miles liked her, befriended her and wanted to spend time with her but I just couldn’t personally do it myself. Yet, I still felt emotionally attached to her and that, I feel, is in large part due to the immaculate writing of John Green.
This book was John Green’s debut novel and it seems to me like a brilliant way to enter into the world of publishing. His writing is easy to get to grips with, and has a way of really grabbing the reader by the shoulders and forcing their arms to keep turning the page. It is interesting and intense, he has a lovely way of capturing human emotions in a way that makes all of his characters feel realistic and alive. You could, quite easily, picture these people walking up and down the street. But it’s more than that. John Green has a way of questioning things with his writing and his stories, a way of opening things up that you may have never thought of before. For example, at the end of this book, there are many unanswered questions for Miles and yet he knows that, that is simply the way life is sometimes, which in turn reflects back to the reader who is also left with unanswered questions, ones that without probing John Green himself, will never know the answer to either. I found this to be one of the best parts of Looking for Alaska, John Green simply tells it as it is.
Looking For Alaska is a contemporary novel that really gets to work from the get go. It centers around an interesting character with an odd fascination for last words who gets to go to a new school and meet some new friends. It is interesting, entertaining, and compelling, and a book that I am incredibly glad that I got to read. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary YA novels, novels with male protagonists and novels that have a way of questioning the very ways of life. There is so much going on in this novel and I wish I could mention it all but I feel that this is one of those books that you really need to experience for yourself. So, stop reading this review now and go and pick up this book and read it. Chances are it’ll move you in many different ways and make you really think about the world without letting you realise that, that is exactly what you are doing. This is a book that I would easily read again and again.