-You can’t just make me different and then leave. Because I was fine before, Miles
-I go to seek a Great Perhaps, Rabelais
-She loved mysteries so much, that she became one, Miles
-How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? Straight and Fast, Miles and Alaska
After reading John Green’s The Fault in our Stars and being completely swept up in its beautiful tragedy, I decided to try out another of his books for my flights to and from Florida. Remembering a student’s recommendation this time, I selected Looking for Alaska. Immediately I was intrigued by the novel’s structure. Many people define their lives as before and after. For example: life before cancer diagnosis and life after or life before horrendous car accident and life after. Clearly this novel’s structure suggested this from the beginning. Each new section of the novel was counting down “100 days before,” “88 days before,”…..I found myself caught up in trying to figure out what exactly are we counting down to? For the longest time I was convinced it was the fall-out from the protagonists’ “school prank” but I was woefully inaccurate. On the other side of the “event” the novel counts again “30 days after,” “100 days after,”….
Speaking of which the protagonists are a dynamic group of misfits who are cooped up in their teenage angst at some prep school in the middle of nowhere. Here they flirt and experiment with life but most often this comes in the form of drug abuses (primarily alcohol and cigarettes), pranking the more wealthy members of the prep community, and testing the waters of sexuality. Much of these dilemmas were real and believable. Pudge (Miles), the Colonel, and Alaska drive the story forward and then turn it in on itself. Pudge is a likable tall, thin, and young Junior who is a bit bookish and not popular. He moves to a boarding school where he meets his roommate the Colonel, a short and pugnacious young man who grapples with his self worth and the meaning of poverty in funny and, at times, sentimental ways. And then there is Alaska. Alaska is the pulse of the novel which is erratic. The girl who Pudge is consumed by, the girl who is mysterious, sexy, sad, and tragically destined to be the “star” of the fulcrum event of the novel.
At the end of the novel, I found myself googling another title by John Green and then asked myself why? Why read yet another John Green novel? According to New York Girl for the Guardian, “There is no doubt that John Green is a good writer, and this is why so many people like his novels. He writes what teens want to read, and what he writes is well written. Looking for Alaska does deserve the awards that it’s won, as it deals with some very prevalent topics from young adults, such as self discovery and loss. It is definitely a book which delves into what teenage life is all about, young love and the stupid things you do to impress someone.” And, perhaps because I work with this population everyday and because in the end I am not THAT far away demographically from them these books still remain exciting. Or, perhaps, it is just because they are very well written. Either way, John Green and Looking for Alaska is a book that should be added to one’s summer reading list.