Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green
A deeply affecting coming-of-age story, Looking for Alaska traces the journey of Miles Halter, a misfit Florida teenager who leaves the safety of home for a boarding school in Alabama and a chance to explore the "Great Perhaps." Debut novelist and NPR commentator Green perfectly captures the intensity of feeling and despair that defines adolescence in this hip, shocking, and emotionally charged work of fiction.
Miles has a quirky interest in famous people's last words, especially François Rabelais's final statement, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." Determined not to wait for death to begin a similar quest, Miles convinces his parents to let him leave home. Once settled at Culver Creek Preparatory School, he befriends a couple of equally gifted outcasts: his roommate Chip―commonly known as the Colonel—who has a predilection for memorizing long, alphabetical lists for fun; and the beautiful and unpredictable Alaska, whom Miles comes to adore.
The kids grow closer as they make their way through a school year filled with contraband, tests, pranks, breakups, and revelations about family and life. But as the story hurtles toward its shattering climax, chapter headings like "forty-six days before" and "the last day" portend a tragic event―one that will change Miles forever and lead him to new conclusions about the value of his cherished "Great Perhaps."
What I thought:
This has to be the weirdest book I've read in a long time, I don't even know where to begin.
None of the characters are very likable. Miles, aka Pudge, is bland all over. He's the quiet, follower type, who does what the Colonel asks without question. He doesn't make for a very interesting main character. The Colonel, on the other hand, gives out orders left and right, hence the nickname, and takes charge whether people wants him to or not. At least he's got his honor and honesty as redeemable qualities.
Alaska, the book's big focus, goes as hot and cold as the Swedish summer and changes just as fast. She can be bright and chatty in one moment only to give you the death stare for no reason in the next. And I really mean no reason. She just doesn't make sense, it's part of what makes her her but it's all a little bit too much.
After the "shattering climax" the guys search like men obsessed for a reason and tries to make sense of what happened. Then they just stop. We get halfway-ish through the reasons and are presented with a lot of plausible hypotheses and then, poof, nothing. Tremendously frustrating!
Looking for Alaska has had a big hype around it and it seems like everybody else loves it and I don't understand why. I really, really wanted to like this book and I plowed through in hope that something would happen to make this an even remotely likable book. It never did. I had high expectations going in and was left highly disappointed.