Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Thoughts - Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green
published 2005
223 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.

My thoughts -

Okay, now I get it. I understand what all the hype is about. After reading The Fault in Our Stars, I questioned a bit why so many people seemed to be so crazy in love with this guy's books. I'm glad I gave him a second chance, however, because Looking for Alaska was an excellent read.

It's clear that Green's "thing" is writing about smart, funny kids who are outside the accepted norm, for one reason or another. While the dialogue in TFIOS seemed forced at times - like he really needed us to understand just how clever these characters really were - Pudge and Alaska and the Colonel always felt like real kids saying real things. I believed in these characters, and because of that I came to care about them.

 I enjoy Green's style of writing, and understand why it resonates with readers - he tackles tough questions honestly, and doesn't give trite answers. I think the subject matter of this novel in particular - big questions about life and the nature of suffering, the longing to understand more about yourself and the people around you - are what make it so powerful, especially to Green's target audience. I'm sure if I had read this book as a teenager, it would have been one of those life-changers that I spent all my time quoting to my friends and copying word-for-word on my school notebooks.

"The Colonel ran ahead of me, gleeful at his ejection, and I jogged after him, trailing in his wake. I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails." (p.49)

As an adult, I've tackled these questions and ideas on my own, and so while I didn't personally feel a sense of revelation, I can understand why it could be that type of book for a young person. I know some parents will struggle with letting their kids read this novel, because it does include profanity and frank discussion of sexuality. While it won't be for everyone, I do think it's an excellent read, and will look forward to my next visit to John Green's world.

Finished - 8/25/13
Source- South side library
MPAA rating - R for language, adult situations, and sexuality
My rating - 8/10


The Great Catsby said...

Loved this book so much that I named my cat Alaska (we call her Allie) since she is such a feisty thing. I agree about it having less impact as an adult though. I wish I had found John Green a bit younger. Great review!

Aarti said...

I've only read Will Grayson, Will Grayson and thought it was ok and not great. But Green co-wrote that with someone else. So maybe I should read a book by just him? I don't know, the storylines just don't really appeal to me, but maybe the writing and characters make up for that?

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a book that I would enjoy. I have yet to read a John Green book. I have a friend that is a huge fan, so I have been meaning to give his books a try.
-Dilettantish Reader