Green, John. (2006). Looking for Alaska. New York, NY: Speak. ISBN 978-0142402511.
Looking for Alaska follows high school junior Miles “Pudge” Halter through his first year at Culver Creek, a boarding school near Birmingham, AL. Pudge leaves his “minor life” in Florida to attend his dad’s alma mater in search of the Great Perhaps, but what he finds is a labyrinth of life’s big questions that may or may not have answers. He meets the Colonel, Takumi, Lara, and of course, Alaska Young that year and he is irreversibly different.
Looking for Alaska has been on my personal Want to Read list for as long as I can remember. It is just one of those books you hear about often (You haven’t heard of it? Seriously? Where have you been the last decade-ish?) and you once you do it just pops up everywhere. Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t crack this open until 2014 but in a way, I think this is also the year I needed it. Not to overuse the phrase, but this is definitely in the Top 10 Books I’ve ever read category*. Pudge is such a likeable character and so are his friends. In the back of the book there’s a Q&A with John Green and a reader asks whom the enemy is in the novel and he said that there doesn’t have to be a bad guy to make the story worth reading. This novel really drives that home. There is no bad guy in the story. Sure the kids aren’t the fondest of The Eagle, but he has a good heart and he loves those kids. Like Alaska says, he loves them but he loves the school more. The Weekday Warriors aren’t bad people either and they all band together at Speaker Day. Overall each character in the book has some really good qualities. Which I can’t say about many any other book I’ve ever read. Alaska is probably actually the least likeable character in the whole book and she still isn’t too bad. She’s just so damn moody and vague and she tries too hard to be mysterious. If Pudge isn’t a complete idiot than Alaska is smokin’ hot and so she doesn’t have to do this whole like me because I’m mysterious thing. But she does it anyway and eventually it just gets played out and you are so tired of her being all over the place emotionally.
Things I liked about this book: 1. All of the characters are relatable. 2. It is sexual but not overly sexual. I can’t believe this book gets banned for the sexual content. The underage drinking is a way bigger deal in this novel than the sex. 3. I like how little details are important but you don’t know that they’re important until they smack you in the face with their importantness. Like Pudge and his last words obsession. I had no idea *SPOILER ALERT* that he would become obsessed with one of the last phrases of a main character in the novel. Maybe, I’m dumb but I did not see that coming at all. Another example, I didn’t realize that Best Day/Worst Day was going to be such a big freaking deal or the white flowers or the labyrinth or basically any of it. John Green has a definite writing gift.
Things I didn’t like about this book: There’s actually just one, okay, one and a half. I knew so far before the ending what Alaska freaked out about on the phone. Like way before. It was almost pathetic that Pudge and the Colonel needed Takumi to tell them about January 10th. I had to read like 50-60 more pages of the book just waiting for the boys to figure it out when in my eyes it was glaringly obvious. I mean, flowers in the backseat and Jake mentioned the anniversary. If it was a snake (or the swan? haha) it would’ve bitten them. The half is just because I think it isn’t believable that the kids didn’t have RA’s. Seriously a bunch of horny teenagers in a co-ed dorm need to have RA’s. It didn’t make me hate the book or anything like that but I just thought that was a lost detail.
I have a thing for endings. Endings ruin books for me all the time because I’m a person who likes closure and doesn’t like to connect the dots on my own. Sometimes the ending is good but it leaves me begging for a sequel and sometimes the ending is bad and it leaves me begging for a sequel. Looking for Alaska was just perfect. I couldn’t have wanted anything more from it. When I finished the novel I posted on my facebook, “I just finished Looking for Alaska and it was so damn good. Beautiful and perfect and sad.” And that is really it in a nutshell. A story that is beautifully perfect and perfectly sad. And you should all go read it right now. What are you waiting for? You’re already nearly a decade behind!
*I had a student once who made a display in the school’s library that said “Best Book Ever Book of the Month”. I need to do this. I keep reading so many great books that it is hard to pick a favorite.