Monday, 3 May 2010

Review - Looking for Alaska / John Green

Sixteen-year-old Miles Halter's adolescence has been one long nonevent - no challenge, no girls, no mischief, and no real friends. Seeking what Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps," he leaves Florida for a boarding school in Birmingham, AL.

His roommate, Chip, is a dirt-poor genius scholarship student with a Napoleon complex who lives to one-up the school's rich preppies. Chip's best friend is Alaska Young, with whom Miles and every other male in her orbit falls instantly in love. She is literate, articulate, and beautiful, and she exhibits a reckless combination of adventurous and self-destructive behavior. She and Chip teach Miles to drink, smoke, and plot elaborate pranks. Alaska's story unfolds in all-night bull sessions, and the depth of her unhappiness becomes obvious.


Review - I started reading this book thinking I was getting a fun-filled, jolly good times story of hijinks and tomfoolery and got another experience all together. It's for that reason that I absolutely fell in love with Looking for Alaska.

I can be a little oblivious at times so it took me awhile to notice that the book was divided into before and after sections. That added a sense of foreboding over the lighthearted beginning and made the reveal feel like a punch to the gut.

Miles is one of the most unextraordinary characters I have seen in literature and yet he makes the most interesting set of eyes for this world. His life really doesn't begin until he meets The Colonel in all his burly, vertically challenged, highly intelligent brilliance. This then propels him into friendships with the intriguing and fantastical Alaska, the almost invisible Takumi and the accented beauty Lara. It's the fantastically composed narrative that propels you on the journey with Miles - loneliness, fear, arousal, self-deprication and jealously are all prevalent, depicting a fully formed and relatable protagonist.

John Green did a great job at depicting the debilitating boring routine of boarding life and the stupid pranks teens will organise just to keep themselves entertained. (I was one of those kids sent to boarding school and let me tell you Green underplayed how heinous existance is in those places sans air conditioning.) Miles learns to be a kid with his new mates, he falls in love, finds out how not to maintain a relationship and learns that (like jail) cigarettes are the way to your roommates heart. I loved each of the characters with all of my heart. They are so deftly portrayed that I felt that they were real. After the event, I felt their loss like my own.

Green's voice really appealed to me, as I think he will to many readers. Themes of love, friendship, loyalty, regret, grief and the philosophical nature of like pepper the pages enrich this story and I can't recommend this tale enough.

Published: 2005
Format: Paperback , 262 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenille / HarperCollins
Source: purchased
Origin: USA

18 comments:

LadyViolet said...

Fantastic Review! I literally finished this yesterday and you have summed up what makes it so brilliant better than I will ever be able to do. I'm certainly going to be getting John Green's other books to read in the near future if they're all as awesome as Looking for Alaska.

Robby said...

All of my friends are telling me how I need to read something John Green has written, and this review is so tempting.

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

That's a fantastic review! Ive been meaning to read this for forever but somehow never get to!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've heard great things about this book. Thanks for the review!

thelittlereader.net said...

i just picked this up from the library a couple of days ago and am really looking forward to it. your review just made me so happy that i have it waiting for me at home. :)

thanks for the excellent review!

Angiegirl said...

I'm glad you worked your way around to this John Green. It's really something, isn't it? And very deserving of the Printz, I think. That ending still gives me chills. The good kind.

Laura said...

I think I'm the only one who really did not like this book at all. I'm not big John Green fan (I find him to be a sycophant). I just found this story to be predictable and the ending silly.

Splendibird said...

Great review. I've not read anything by John Green but have added this to my wish list as it looks excellent. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Sandy Shin said...

Thank you for this review! I've been meaning to pick up a John Green book and will probably start with this. :)

Amie McCracken said...

I absolutely love this book. But then I picked up another John Green hoping for another fantastic read and it was exactly the same story with exactly the same characters. I was so sad.

John The Bookworm said...

It was interesting to see your take on Green. I've always wanted to try him, especially with the release of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Glad to know he lives up to the general hype. ^^

Amelia said...

I bought this one a few weeks back, but have yet to read it. I'm glad you like it! I've never read John Green, and he seems like 'you love him/hate him' type of author. I hope I love him as much as you did.

silverush said...

Looking For Alaska is most definitely one of my alltime favorite books by one of my alltime favorite authors.

And to those who haven't read it, go read it right now. Because it's amazinggg.

Steph Su said...

Yay! So glad you loved this book. It's one of my all-time favorites, and completely deserves its Printz Award.

emilyandherlittlepinknotes.com said...

I put this among my Top Ya Title and yet I have a love-hate relationship with this.
I enjoyed Miles' voice and the way Green describes infatuation in such a real and poignant way that feels real.
However “the main event that takes place in the book“ felt forced and not properly dealt with.

Audrey; (AyC) said...

awesome review, i loved this book too

Sara said...

Awesome review! I really like that cover. I'm in the middle of this one and I'm really liking it so far :D

Amra Pajalic said...

I just read this book and it is absolutely amazing. I'm just as much in love with it as you are. And the structure is so amazing. Really delivers another layer to the whole story.