Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Looking for Alaska

Title: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

SPOILER FREE description (self explained): Miles Halter, last-words-loving geek, has never been "at home" at home. He announces that he wishes to go to Culver Creek Boarding School, in search of what Francois Rabelais, dead poet, called "The Great Perhaps". When he arrives he finds a funny roommate, lots of mischief, difficult classes,  and a weird, moody, quirky, but drop dead gorgeous girl named Alaska Young. Pulling him in, Alaska launches Miles  into his great perhaps, while stealing his heart. He quickly becomes caught up in the fun... and games.

Until an event shatters the whole balance.

A History of Looking for Alaska: Looking for Alaska was drafted before 9/11, after which its "Before/After" format came. It was published by Dutton books, a member of Penguin, in 2005 and has since received very high praise. It was a 2006 Micheal P. Printz Award winner, a 2005 Los Angeles Book Prize finalist, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and a Booklist Editor's Choice Pick. In 2006, it was given the Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, a Teens's Top 10 Award, and a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult readers. You may find it under the Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Authors" section, or at the Boarders Original Voices" section. Breaking news! For part of this video, Green discusses the (kind of) new cover of Looking for Alaska.

On the Author, John Green: Others of Green's works include An Abundance of Katherines (book review by Tess Lydon here), Paper Townsand most recently, The Fault in Our Stars. Green has co-written books with David Levithan (Will Grayson, Will Grayson), and Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle (Let it Snow). Green is one of the 'Vlog brothers', one of the most popular YouTube channels to date. He’s written for the New York Times and Nation Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Looking for Alaska was his first published novel. 


Having read two other of Green's novels, I decided to go back and finally start his most famous one. I didn't get very much from the summary/blurb on the back, but I figured Green was a safe bet on a good book.

I was wrong.

This book was not good. It was fantastic. There isn't one stand out thing that takes the cake, but the combination of great things. 

First and most of all, his characters. I'd have to say I love "The Colonel" (Chip) the most. He reminds me a bit of my older brother, and a bit of my guy friends. As much as he was great before Alaska's death, his real shining moments were after. I can't get the image of him screaming I'm so sorry! over and over again, in that auditorium, out of my head. It's haunting in the same way that the truth can be haunting. 

Alaska was amazing too. It was interesting seeing a moody character, especially when nowadays you're taught to stick to your guns when writing a character. But, in a way, Green was. The swaying back and  forth was part of her personality. I loved her and wanted to scream at her. In order to have the ending Green wanted, this was very necessary and he pulled it off well. 

The overall themes in this book are not for the feint of heart. Dealing with such big issues such as death, loss, forgiveness, the meaning of life, and fault. The beautiful thing is that this book doesn't answer all the questions. The most important issue on the reader's mind is not answered by the end of the book. While this may be frustrating, it's also realistic. We were never in that car with Alaska and there was no way of getting inside her head. That in and of itself is another theme: living without knowing and being able to forgive the dead. 

Contrary to what I thought, Green's first book is one of his best. Looking for Alaska shares with us the love and loss of a wonderful and flawed girl. You will not find any escape in this book. It's real. 

Who would I recommend it to?
Ages fourteen and up. Both guys and girls. Any fans of pranks (there's some amazing ones in here!). Anyone who enjoys dark but hopeful books.

Favorite quote:
"We left.
We did not say: Don't drive. You're drunk.
We did not say: We aren't letting you in that car when you are upset. 
We did not say: We insist on going with you.
We did not say: This can wait until tomorrow. Anything-everything-can wait."

Read the book? What did you think? Have a book recommendation? Leave a comment below!

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