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 brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green’s arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.
My Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
Looking for Alaska was an amazing book. I really didn’t know what to expect when I started it – or when I picked it up. I needed a book with a place name in the title for one of my challenges and John Green’s book had good reviews, so I went from there.
The book is about Miles who’s life hasn’t been anything spectacular. He doesn’t have any friends, he’s never had a girlfriend, and he’s really never experienced anything in life. His favourite thing is reading biographies to find out what a person’s last words were and in his reading he finds Francois Rabelais’s last words: “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”
For that reason, he decides to leave home to a Preparatory school called Culver Creek. His father also attended the school, knowing that it was famous for always pulling pranks throughout the year. Miles’ parents throw him a goodbye party – which only 2 people attend, not showing any interest at all (something Miles figured would happen – no surprise to him) – and then Miles is off.
While at Culver Creek, his world is changed. He immediately becomes friends with Chip ‘The Colonel’ Martin, who gives Miles the nickname Pudge (an ironic name since Miles sounds to be built like a stick). From there, he meets the beautiful Alaska Young and falls in love with her.
Finally having a life, having friends, even getting a girlfriend, Miles’ world seems greater than it ever has. And then something happens that changes it forever.
I would not have pegged this to be YA fiction because as I was reading it the characters just seemed so much older than high school kids, but YA or not, this book was amazing. Green has a knack for building something up and this is masterfully done via the layout of the book.
We start with ‘Before’ and each part in this section is titled by how many days Before. As the reader, I knew something was up but I couldn’t pinpoint what it would be until the last few pages of Before.
Next comes ‘After’, where the mood changes, but not too much. There isn’t an anticipation for anything since we’re in After, but as the reader I was intrigued the whole way through.
Dealing with sadness, guilt, forgiveness, anger – all with humour sprinkled throughout – Green crafts a book that makes us, the readers, really think about what it means to be alive. Yes, there is drugs, smoking, sex, pranks, drinking, religion, etc. which may not be suitable for some teens (I’ve heard the book has been challenged due to this) but even with all the “bad stuff” there is plenty good in this book: love, friendship, trust, faith.
Looking for Alaska reads very easily – though the subject matter changes throughout. The dialogue is fresh and funny – nothing seems forced – and the characters are believable and relatable.
This is one book where I don’t want to give out any spoilers because it was just so well done. I ended it loving all the characters and am interested to check out more works by Green. Looking for Alaska made me think of Catcher in the Rye meets Into the Wild meets The Virgin Suicides.
It was just a spectacular read!