Looking for Alaska by John Green - Review and Discussion
After reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I promptly bought 2 other books written by Green, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. I have not read Paper Towns yet, but I did recently finish up Looking for Alaska. When I sat down to write this review, I did some research online to get a grasp of how others received it. I was shocked to see that some people were comparing this to the legendary Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, some were completely emotionally attached to it, and some people absolutely hated it. I lie somewhere in the middle.
Miles, the main character, goes off to boarding school. This was a decision that he made on his own accord after reading poet Francois Rabelais, who mentions searching for a "Great Perhaps". Upon arriving at school, he meets his roommate Chip and a girl down the hall named Alaska. Chip a.k.a. "The Colonel" and Alaska are already friends and they adopt Miles into their group. They continue through the following months getting into trouble, pulling pranks, smoking and general debauchery together. Predictably, Miles falls for beautiful, mysterious, badass Alaska. She's an enigma to him: messy, and fast, and unpredictable. One of my favorite quotes is how he describes the difference between himself and her, "If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane".
Just like the back cover of the book (below), the story is laid out by the events that happened "before" and the "after". Obviously something big happens and when you get closer to that event you start to get a bit stressed out. You know something is coming, but you have no idea what. I love that for a lot of the "before" you are aware of the countdown, but you are mostly enjoying the shenanigans of this little trio and the joy and confusion of Miles fall in love with Alaska. As it gets closer you start to realize that things have been going too well.
Before I get on with the spoilers, my general conclusion is that this is not a must-read. It's a great coming of age story, it has a decent amount of feels, and asks a lot life questions, but... there are some things that I really did not enjoy about it. However, I think everyone should always find out for themselves, as you might relate to the stories in ways that I did not. If you do read it, I would love to hear about it!
Now's about the time that you should move on if you don't want to know anymore about the story.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
So here's my issue with the story. They gave away the surprise just before it happened! WHY?!
If you have read this, then you know that Alaska dies in a car accident, which completely turns everyone's world upside down. It's heartbreaking, of course, but the impact would have been so much greater if John Green hadn't alluded to what was going to happen right before it happened. The night that she dies, she has this intense moment with Miles. They get drunk, make out and almost have sex. After they fall asleep, she suddenly wakes up in a fury saying she needs to go right then. Then it explicitly calls attention to the fact that they were drinking and that they didn't try to stop her from driving... Gee, I wonder what is going to happen next. The next day, the principal calls them into an assemble to tell them something and THIS is where the big reveal should be that she died. But, as I'm reading it, instead of feeling any emotion at this point I'm thinking YEA you basically already told me she's dead. It distracted me from the story in a major way, and I was really disappointed with that.
Now we get to the after, the part where they are trying to figure out why Alaska left is such a fury. Was it guilt (she had a boyfriend when she made out with Miles)? Was it suicide? Was she trying to get to her boyfriend? Now, I think that the reasoning for why she left is actually solid, but did we need half of the book to figure that out? This is the part of the book that I think is supposed to answer all of life's questions and reveal the discoveries that Miles has made searching for his Great Perhaps.
Maybe if I was a teenager I would have related more to this book. 16 year old, self-destructive, emo me would have loved every line in the book. I did enjoy the read and the characters, even though some of the lines made me roll my eyes. If you have read this, please let me know what you think!