Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Published: 3rd March 2005

“A simple story told in a very interesting way.”

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What Is ‘Looking For Alaska’ About?

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words – and tired of his safe, boring and rather lonely life at home. He leaves for boarding school filled with cautious optimism, 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.

Why Did I Read ‘Looking For Alaska’?

The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns are both great John Green novels that I’m glad I’ve read. That in itself was all the justification I needed.

What I Liked About ‘Looking For Alaska’

Straightaway it’s apparent that it’s a John Green novel. You’ve got young characters, witty dialogue, a coming of age story told in the first person, references to history and memorable quotes made by interesting & influential people.

Green splits the chapters via an ominous countdown (e.g ‘110 days before’), it’s quite clever as it gives a sense for the passage of time, but also indicates that something is coming.

I loved the fascination that Miles had with remembering the last words of senior figures throughout history. A great way of offering something interesting as well as being quite funny at times.

Green was able to do a significant amount of social commentary within the telling of this story. There’s a whole section on woman’s rights, a bit on pornography, parts where characters discuss religion, and this is all whilst sandwiched amongst drinking games and drunken pranks.

Another thing I enjoyed was the use of layers. Miles often addresses the layers between him and other female characters to define how close he is to that person. His pants, his jeans, her dress, etc. This gets deeper in meaning the further you go into the story.

‘Looking For Alaska’ deals with tragedy well. Almost as if it’s being bolstered by personal experience. It’s essentially a simple story told in a very interesting way.

What I Didn’t Like About ‘Looking For Alaska’

It’s all a bit cliche to begin with. The protagonist (Miles) is a bit of a geek and falls in love with a girl called Alaska almost instantly. In fact for the first 20% of the story I really didn’t know where it was going (and not in a good way).

The previous John Green books that I’ve read have all been about ‘something’ and that ‘something’ has been quite apparent early into the story, played out within the dynamic of friendships and the banter between young adults wise beyond their years. But with this book, there didn’t appear to be any theme for great lengths of the story.

Though it takes a while to get there ‘Looking For Alaska’ addresses loss (in this case the loss of a friend). The acceptance of death and how the characters deal with it personally and outwardly. But for me it took too long to get there. For many readers I suspect what would measure this novel is whether they believed the second half made up for the first.

Good Or Bad

Was this book any good? Yes. This isn’t a bad story at all, it’s just overshadowed by Green’s subsequent novels.
Would I recommend it? Of all the John Green novels, this one I liked the least. If you had to pick up one John Green book, this wouldn’t be it for me. But it’s worth a read.
Would I read it again? No.

 

Here are some other reviews:

The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Paper Towns by John Green
Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King

What’s on the list?
Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
Lie in Wait by GJ Minett

 

Any suggestions?

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David P. Philip


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