Today’s review: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Number of pages: 268
Genre: Fiction/ Young Adult/ Romance/ Contemporary
Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.com
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, 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, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same.
I’ve finally done it, lads. I’ve finally read a John Green novel!
It’s not that I was putting it off or anything, I’ve just never gotten around to it until now.
So without further ado, here’s my review! (ehehe that rhymed)
Looking for Alaska follows the socially awkward, utterly adorkable Miles Halter as he begins life at Culver Creek Boarding School. Miles, nicknamed “Pudge” by his new roommate Chip “The Colonel” Martin, has been searching all his life for a “Great Perhaps”; the chance to experience something wonderful in his life that he was clearly never going to achieve whilst stuck in public school with “the ragtag bunch of drama people and English geeks I sat with by social necessity”. Little did Pudge realise that his decision to move schools would change his life in drastic ways.
I really loved this book. For me, it was a breath of fresh air, because I have been tackling George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series for a number of weeks now (I’m up to A Feast for Crows but unfortunately, no reviews as too much has happened and there are too many spoilers). It was good to go back to a smaller, more manageable book to break up the constant stream of events being dumped on me by the ASoIaF series.
Now, to characters.
I really liked Pudge as the narrator of this story. He had a sort of witty, sarcastic humour that allowed me to be pulled into his character and allowed me to connect with him (I have a similar sense of humour, ask anyone). He was a very observant narrator, if a little subjective with some of his points of view, such as with the sort-of-antagonists, the Weekday Warriors (essentially the stuck-up rich kids of the school). Whilst kudos to his thoughtful, whimsical narration, there was something about his narration that I wasn’t very impressed with: the numerous observations of the extensive circumference of Alaska’s breasts. I mean, once or twice would have suited, but I read the same thing too many times for my liking. I suppose I have to keep in mind that this book is written from the perspective of a teenage boy, but I thought Pudge would have had a bit more discretion than that.
The Colonel I think was hands-down my favourite character. Some of his lines were the funniest I’ve ever read and on some occasions, he actually made me laugh out loud; something that only two other books have ever made me do before (those being Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant, and Nick Griffiths’ memoir, Dalek, I Loved You). On Pudge’s first meeting with him, I thought that his relationship with the Colonel would be a difficult one; the way Pudge described him made him sound like one of your stereotypical fluffhead jocks, but he turned out to be significantly different to that. He brought a great comedy relief, and Green also managed to give him a loveable, real character.
I loved the complexity of Alaska Young. I loved how she was so changeable, and how she was as unpredictable as the weather. Alaska was a deeply flawed character with a shocking backstory, her delivery of which really drew me to loving her. Her feisty feminist attitude coupled with her morbid humour made for interesting reading as she played off of the other main characters. There were some moments however, when I felt completely detached from her. I felt some animosity to her two-faced nature and, although it’s resolved as to why she is like this later in the book, I didn’t feel that it was necessary to distance herself from the only people who understood her in the way that she did. I did also find her a bit over-the-top in the drama department, but perhaps that was her way of masking her true emotions.
I did have high expectations for this novel due to the constant John Green hype that seems to have dominated the internet, and I have to say I was not disappointed. Looking for Alaska was beautifully told through Pudge’s narration, with a great deal of superbly poetic lines, one of my particular favourites being a quote read by Pudge from W.H. Auden’s poem As I Walked Out One Evening, “You shall love your crooked neighbor/ With all your crooked heart“. I liked the novel’s concept of finding one’s place in a bigger, scarier world where nothing is as it seems, and Alaska’s focussed perception of life as the Labyrinth in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s The General in his Labyrinth.
Overall, I was quite impressed by Looking for Alaska, and I’m not afraid to admit that I cried on four separate occasions throughout, then spent a good ten minutes sobbing quietly after I finished reading it. I won’t say why though, you’ll just have to find out for yourself. Reading this has really given me a taste for John Green’s writing, and I’m definitely going to be reading more. In fact, I just bought The Fault in Our Stars today (on sale because the movie came out the other day), and I’m going to start it after I finish the current book I’m reading.