Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Publisher: Puffin
Age: Young Adult
Species: Human
Rating: 4/5
Interest: John Green/everyone loves it/recommended to me

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska is strange, not in the "this is funky way" but more like "I'm not sure if this will be a train wreck or a flight of angels" way. I haphazardly jumped into this book without really reading what it was about. To be honest, I only picked it up for a quote. Seriously, I was browsing around on tumblr and found the lines "If people were rain, I was a drizzle and she was a hurricane." That was all it took to convince me to get the book. I have a sneaking suspicion that I have a poet's heart.

I struggled with finishing Alaska in a timely manner. I had to renew it from library about 3 times. (Sorry people who were waiting on it!) Looking for Alaska has this effect on me. I don't know there's a name for it or not, but I call it the pull me in and shut me out effect. While I was reading the book, I loved it, the characters were interesting, I liked the plots and I didn't want to put the book down. However, whenever I did manage to put the book down, I had a really hard time picking it back up. It's like as soon as I shut the book, the spell was broken and I couldn't remember why I wanted to finish reading it. I wonder if that happens to anyone else.

The characters from Alaska were... perfectly imperfect. I was raised in an environment where smoking, drinking underage, hook-ups and pranks were highly discouraged. To tell the truth, Pudge did all the things I've secretly wanted to do, but was never wild enough or confident enough to try. (Except for the smoking, that's just nasty.) None of the characters by any means were perfect and probably aren't considered role models. However, their flaws, insecurities, mood swings and issues just made them more real and endeared them to me. Alaska for instance, she is psychotic and impulsive beyond reason, but I still love her character.

I could not believe what happened in that moment right before After. (If you've read Looking for Alaska, you understand this comment.) It was the absolute last thing I expected of the book. You could have knocked me over with a feather in the first few pages of After. The tears came later. When Miles was at the smoking hole talking about how you couldn't make yourself matter and then choose to leave I cried like a toddler throwing a tantrum. It just wasn't fair or right to me.

The most interesting part of Looking for Alaska was The Great Perhaps and The Labyrinth. I want to lose myself in something bigger than me. I want to seek a great something. I want to find a thing that shakes and changes me down to my core. I need something that affects me like a tidal wave, taking me under and giving me new understanding of what it's like to live. I think this is why I tend to like or relate to Miles. He, involuntarily, went through an experience which changed everything for him. I wonder about there only being a  Before and never an After. What would have happened to Pudge and the Colonel? Would Pudge have gone through with "to be continued"? Would the Colonel still have found a way to challenge the patriarchal paradigm? There's no way of knowing.

Looking for Alaska was confusing and brilliant, affirming and questioning, beautiful and ugly, sad and joyous. Just like there's no way to describe Alaska the girl, there will never be a good way to describe Alaska the book. People aren't going to understand it unless they've read it. I'd say every teen should read it and try to understand it. They should all formulate their own Great Perhaps to seek and try to puzzle their way through The Labyrinth. Somehow I think it will make them better students of belief by questioning, challenging and forming their own opinions.

Teaser lines: "God will punish the wicked. And before He does, we will."

Happy Reading,

1 comment:

  1. Great review! We're glad to know we're not the only ones who felt that "pull me in and shut me out effect." Paper Towns was similar, in a way, but we liked it better and read it faster than Looking for Alaska, so you might try that next. There's definitely a reason John Green is so beloved.


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