Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Looking for Alaska

* major spoilers *

Miles Halter is bored. His whole existence has been unremarkable up to this point and he craves something significant: the "Great Perhaps." Culver Boarding School provides his change of scenery and throws his whole world upside down. His roommate Chip AKA The Colonel dubs him Pudge and draws him into his world of smoking, drinking, and pranks. Chip also brought Alaska into his life, a gorgeous, intelligent, and self destructive girl. Pudge falls head over heels in love with mesmerizing Alaska and learns so much about literature, life, and friendship. Then tragedy strikes. Pudge and his friends struggle to find meaning in the wake of the event and find a way to move forward.

I recently read The Fault in Our Stars and sobbed buckets over it, so I had to see what his earlier books were like. I've heard good things from a wide variety of people about Looking for Alaska, but I felt it didn't quite live up to the hype. I did enjoy it and it was successful in many ways. The characters are vibrant and memorable. Even the most minor characters made an impression. My favorite is the Colonel with his larger than life personality, small stature, and rough demeanor. Underneath, he is fiercely loyal and kind of a sweetheart. I liked the inclusion of taboo teen subjects like drinking, smoking, and sex. Censoring these things from teen books doesn't change that teens experience them and I found it to be much more real. It's kind of like watching The Goonies compared to current children's films that are so much more sanitized. The greatest strength of the book is how grieving and trying to find meaning in tragedy are portrayed. Everyone grieves differently and processes in their own time. Nothing is completely explained about Alaska's death. There's no convenient revelation that ties everything up because that's just not how life really is. Things are messy and we don't always know why things happen the way they do. We just have to come to terms with it in our own way and move on.

I was slightly underwhelmed because it didn't quite live up to the hype. It's another book about annoying pretentious teenagers which are very similar to the characters in The Fault in Our Stars. I didn't really like Alaska and felt she could be pretty inconsiderate and hurtful, so her death didn't affect as much as I think it was supposed to. The pros seriously outweigh the cons and I did enjoy the novel.

Looking for Alaska is a fast read and deals with death and its effect on people in a real way. I will definitely be reading the rest of John Green's books because they are addicting and I find hours of my time just gone because I got sucked into his books.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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