Saturday, December 10, 2011

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Genre: Young adult, contemp fiction
Publisher, Year: Dutton Books, 2005
Other Works: An Abundance of Kathrines
Flags: Strong language, Adult themes, Explicit references
Rating: A+, or Must Read Now!
Challenge: Countdown
Premise: A boy starts new at a boarding school. He makes new friends, all of whom love to work and play hard. A tragic event changes everything.

I've been meaning to post this review for awhile. I think I read this book almost two years ago and loved it immediately, along with it's quirky author, John Green. This book definitely made a lasting impression on me.

Miles Halter, nicknamed "Pudge," arrives at a new boarding school, full of expectation. He's looking for something, something big, and finds it in the embodiment of a girl, Alaska, and a group of friends who, like him, are just trying to get things figured out, and have a little fun besides. The whole story pivots around one event: one painful and troubled realization, one hasty decision that leaves lasting scars. Before this event, there is adventure, discovery, and the same mistakes teens have been making and learning from for centuries. After—nothing is the same, regrets abound, and, felt most deeply, nothing can be done to change it.

Miles meets with a group of intelligent, misfit teens who like to do those things that all kids that age do—drink life to the lees and damn the consequences. Up to this point, Miles has had little opportunity to be reckless, and with his new life, he’s also ready for new experiences, led by a high-spirited, slightly damaged, beautiful girl. Alaska represents to him every excitement that the world has to offer, and he can’t help himself around her. He’s entranced, with the innocence that envelops every first love.

Amidst all of these physical and emotional discoveries, Miles is also looking for something more, something intangible, what he call the Great Perhaps. Although it may seem like a lot of fun and games—kids being kids, goofing off, and all that—Miles and his ramshackle group are each finding their own paths, grasping for answers to life’s biggest mysteries, the unfairness of it all and what it all means. I can understand why some don’t like this book. I suppose on the surface it could seem like the chronicles of a bunch of over-enthusiastic, irreverent, and under-supervised kids wreaking havoc, but it really is so much more than that. It’s a heart-breaking tale of a heart-breaking time in life. For me, it put into words so much that makes sense about being a teenager, about big choices and even bigger questions, about accepting adulthood. About the frustration of realizing that some questions just don’t have good, solid, scientific method answers. About making sense of the senseless.

This is one I’m definitely putting on my list of what to read with my daughter when she reaches teenagehood. Not only was it brimming with meaning, but was also a joy (and a sorrow) to read. Green is an excellent writer, and the story was well-paced, creative, and compelling. I’m looking forward to reading his other books.

1 comment:

Ajoop. S said...

I LOVED this book so much. This book was one of the first contemporary YA books I've read and totally introduced me to the awesomeness of contemporary YA!