Looking for Alaska, John Green
Dutton Juvenile March 2005. Purchased copy.
Miles (Pudge) Halter has spent the last 16 years being a nobody in Florida. He has school friends, but no one who he’s really close to. He decides that the best way to really change his life is to go to boarding school in search of the “Great Perhaps.” His roommate, Chip, becomes his first real friend and through Chip he meets Alaska Young, the living embodiment of a “Great Perhaps.” She and Chip introduce Pudge to the world of rule breaking, drinking, pranking, and smoking. They also show him what it means to be a friend. Alaska’s mood swings and deep sadness effect the trio’s friendship and keep Pudge from really being able to understand her.
As a fan of John Green (as a person as well as his books) I can’t believe I waited so long to read this one! It was nothing like An Abundance of Katherines or Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but I absolutely adored it. Pudge is such a sweet, believable character. He felt like a friend after only a few pages. I also immediately loved Chip, for all his flaws as well as what a great friend he was to Miles. Alaska was exactly what she was supposed to be, enigmatic. I could never decide if I liked her, loved her, or hated her. Which means she was perfectly written.
The southern setting for this novel was so well realized. I could feel the heat and humidity, I could see the trees surrounding the school. Culver Creek is fully fleshed out in my head. The school itself felt like another main character, helping shape who Miles, Chip and Alaska would become.
The novel is broken up into two parts – before and after. The before is full of first experiences, meetings, and possibilities while the after is devoted to understanding, mystery, and self discovery. It was a wonderful way to follow Miles’ transition. When he first arrives at the Creek, everything seems great to him – the food, the people, the classes, the freedom. He’s constantly amazed, but, in the after, he is finally able to see everything and everyone for what it/they really are. The shine has worn off, but he finds that some things are just as great as he had always thought they were.
This is an amazing story that just about anyone would enjoy. I devoured it and now look forward to reading Paper Towns, which is the last of John Green’s books that I have yet to read. However, I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone younger than high school because some themes wouldn’t make a lot of sense to younger readers.