book review: looking for alaska by john green

I came across Looking For Alaska when one of my friends blogged a picture of a paragraph from it – this paragraph:

I found it to be such an honest paragraph, and I loved the line “if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane”. This friend then bought the book and raved about it, so I knew I had to give it a read. I was not disappointed.

Looking For Alaska or just Alaska, is written from the perspective of Miles Halter (more affectionately known as Pudge), a teenager fascinated by famous last words, one in particular that leads him to leave his home in Florida and attend boarding school in Alabama, in search of the Great Perhaps.

When Miles arrives at Culver Creek, he is immediately drawn to the free-spirited Alaska Young and strikes up a friendship with her along with his roommate, Chip (the Colonel), Takumi and Lara, a Romanian exchange student. Then the “event” happens and their lives are changed forever. And that’s as much as I will say about the plot without giving it away.

What I loved about Alaska was its unique voice. Many have compared Miles narration to that of Holden from JD Salinger’s A Catcher In The Rye, but I don’t see it. I personally did not like Catcher and I found Holden irritating, but the same cannot be said for Miles. I fell in love with the honesty of his character, with his quirks and his thoughts.

Alaska is cleverly divided into “Before” and “After”, with the chapters in “Before” being a countdown to the event and the chapters in “After” logging the days after. On his website, John Green has a question answer segment about Alaska (which you can read here but beware of spoilers) and I love his explanation for setting out the novel this way:

Alaska is a novel about the most important event in these people’s lives, so it made sense to me to structure the story in the same way. Also, I thought it would be neat.”

Another thing I loved about Alaska was the fact that there wasn’t a “happy” conclusion where everything comes together and everything makes sense. The reason I love this about the book is it is very true for real life. When asked about the ending, John had this to say:

“The truth is that in our lives we are all going to encounter questions that should be answered, that deserve to be answered, and yet probe unanswerable. Can we find meaning to life without those answers? Can we find a way to acknowledge the reality (and injustice) of suffering without giving in to hopelessness? Those are the questions I think Miles is confronting at the end, and I wanted to argue that through forgiveness, it is possible to live a full and hopeful life – even if our world is saturated with injustice and loss.”

Alaska is an incredible book and I literally read it in a day. I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to keep reading. It is unique and tragically beautiful. I would highly recommend reading it.

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