Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.
Looking for Alaska is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years but never got around to doing it. It was published seven years ago (2005) and won the Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association the year after. I first heard of it through this magical microblogging website called Tumblr where I saw the powerful quote that made the book very memorable for me:
I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my hands around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.
Right then and there I wanted to read the book. I never got to obtaining a copy, though, until last Christmas, when my friend Yong gave it to me as a present; when I unwrapped the book, all the excitement started flowing back. He told me it wasn’t the happiest book ever, so I tried putting off reading it until what I thought was ‘the right time’. I never knew if this was the right time, however, but I decided to just read it and see why everybody else loved it so much.
Looking for Alaska is a coming-of-age story that deals with love, life, friendship, loyalty, and the uncertainties of “the Great Perhaps”. It is divided into two parts, Before and After, but I can’t tell you what the reference point is, lest the whole story is spoiled. All of its characters are very well-written. Miles “Pudge” Halter was very effective as the protagonist, existing most of his life as a general nobody before transferring to Culver Creek Preparatory School, collecting last words and looking for a change in his life, or at least something different from what his life before used to be. These changes come in the forms of Chip “the Colonel” Martin, his roommate, and his friends Alaska Young and Takumi Hikohito. Miles gets instantly smitten with Alaska, a bookworm-slash-prankster extraordinaire who also happens to be impulsive, daring, and bold, something I suppose he considered as a refreshing change.
More than being a story about teenagers going through high school while living rebellious lives, Looking for Alaska presents thought-provoking questions that adds depth to the book. How will I get out of this labyrinth of suffering? I loved how, between the lines and layers of teenage angst and rebelliousness, John Green managed to insert wisdom and insight about life, and even though some of it is deep, his writing can make you understand and grasp the beauty of it.
Looking for Alaska is my first John Green book (I know, I’m so late!), and true to the testaments of several other readers, this is indeed a book you will never forget. Funny, witty, clever, and insightful, I highly recommend this book.
In a nutshell…
Paperback, 221 pages
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Published: March 3, 2005
Genre: Young Adult, Teen, Coming of Age