(Cover picture courtesy of Compulsive Overreader.)
BEFORE. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His 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, sex, 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.
To be honest, I was expecting some sappy, cliché-filled teen romance with plenty of drinking, smoking and sex. Because writers think all teen relationships involve those three things. Or maybe I’m just naive and the writers are correct.
Either way, Looking for Alaska was most definitely not what I predicted. In the middle of the book it went in an entirely different direction that threw me off completely. Looking back on things, I think John Green was hinting at what would happen earlier, but at the time the huge plot twist was a surprise to say the least. After that, I could ignore the smoking and drinking and teenage drama and focus on the message John Green was trying to get across all along.
But the thing is that the message isn’t blatantly obvious. You have to think about things and come up with your own conclusion. That’s something you don’t see very often in YA fiction and it’s nice to have a bit of an ambiguous ending. Everything is not hunky-dory and happy-go-lucky; Looking for Alaska is sort of a melancholy book with a melancholy ending. Sure, it’s not the sad YA ending I’ve been yearning for, but it’s nice not to have a completely happy ending.
I think that the characters in this book, whether they’re Alaska, Pudge or the Colonel, will speak to teens. They’re flawed, imperfect and do incredibly stupid things that everyone, not just teens, do. John Green also doesn’t try to write down to his readers; he actually believes in their intelligence. That’s why his teenagers are real people, not just the stereotypes you’ll see in every movie/TV show about high school every made.
I give this book 4/5 stars.