Looking for Alaska by John Green cover

Looking For Alaska

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Synopsis: A vivid, passionate and intensely moving YA novel from prizewinning author John Green.“In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and sunshine and vanilla and on that thin-mooned night I could see little more than her silhouette, but even in the dark, I could see her eyes – fierce emeralds. And not just beautiful, but hot too.”BEFORE. Miles Halter’s whole life has been one big non-event until he starts at anything-but-boring Culver Creek Boarding School and meets Alaska Young. Gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, screwed up and utterly fascinating she pulls Miles into her world, launches him into a new life, and steals his heart. But when tragedy strikes, and Miles comes face-to-face with death he discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally.AFTER: Nothing will ever be the same.Poignant, funny, heartbreaking and compelling, this novel will stay with you forever.

The Great Perhaps. Miles “Pudge” feels a yearning for the possibilities of life. He leaves for a boarding school, hoping that there, it will be easier to find than at home, in a school where nobody thinks like him. It is. He meets the Colonel, his room-mate, and befriends his social group. But more than anything, he sees Alaska, crazy, funny and passionate, but more than anything, gorgeous. This is Before. Nothing will be the same again.

This was my first John Green novel, and I realised that, after reading Looking For Alaska, this was John Green’s debut novel. (Poignant it may or may not be, but I have decided to read his novels in the order he wrote them.) Looking For Alaska doesn’t read like a debut novel, it reads like the novel of someone who is experienced and is a big name in the literary world, which, ironically, John Green has sort-of become. He is an author who writes so well it can’t be healthy.

Looking For Alaska is a Perks-of-Being-a-Wallflower-esque coming of age novel, and while paging through this book at high speed, I discovered what can only be called an unwritten rule of coming-of-age stories. They seem to be exempt from the general rule that novels should have unique and unpredictable plots. I knew from the start what was going to occur some 100 pages into Looking For Alaska, and yet I didn’t complain. Coming of age novels follow a certain structure: 1) Introduce characters, 2) Show the good times they had together, 3) Something drastic happens, and 4) The characters have to deal with it. Everybody understands this, and nobody holds this against coming of age novels. Why? Because the characters are what is important. Coming of age novels such as Looking For Alaska don’t offer action-packed adventures, or fantastical battles or heroic deeds from far off lands. They attempt to depict a small window of human life; a small picture of what people go through. Looking For Alaska does just that and is perfect in its depiction.

The characters are what is important, and my, are they good. Over the day or two it took for me to read Looking For Alaska, I became one of them. I was submersed in their world, and it was my world. The characters loved Alaska. I loved Alaska. Today, I spent my school day feeling depressed from what I had read in Looking For Alaska. This novel will crash into your life and won’t leave it until the last page has been turned and the last word has been read, and even then you’ll have a hard time forgetting it.

Looking For Alaska is split into diary-like entries which, rather than being dated, are a titled with a countdown to an event some way into the book – before & after. I have never seen a book structured like that, and it works a treat. Counting down to D-day, the closer it got the tenser the read. The inevitable looms over the first half like a dark, ominous cloud, never quite letting you forget that something, just something will be happening. Very soon. And when it happens, nothing will be as important as reading on and discovering the truth.

Any book that moves me to tears is crazily good. Any book that leaves me feeling depressed while NOT reading it is crazily good. Any book that makes me fall in love with the characters is crazily good. Looking For Alaska is this book, and is possibly the best in its genre so far. It is vivid, funny, and despairing. Looking For Alaska will remind you of what it means to be alive. If books are like rain, 99% would be a drizzle. Looking For Alaska is a hurricane.

About Rhys

Rhys is a 19 year old with roots in the UK and Germany. Aside from reading and blogging, he also produces theatre, loves Kate Bush and hopes to pursue a career in publishing. His reviews have been widely quoted in books such as Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines Quartet, Catherine Bruton’s Pop!, James Treadwell’s Advent and Anarchy and he has presented at such events as Book Expo America.

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What did you think about Looking For Alaska?

  1. Nina B. March 28, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    John Green is really good. However, this is the only book he’s written that I haven’t read yet and your review made me itch to get get it now and read it 😀

    Brush Up On Your Reading

  2. Aaron Vincent March 29, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Wow. Just wow. You’ve captured really well the poignancy of this wonderful book. This a very well inspired review. I might be bias here since its my favorite author you are reviewing but I have to say that this is the best from you yet. Keep reading John Green. Keep writing this brilliant reviews.

    And your last line… KILLER LAST LINE!!

  3. Lynn March 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Well, that was an awesome review. Seems like I will have to pick it up and read it now.

    Ta
    😀

  4. Candy Gourlay March 31, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Great review! I came to Looking for Alaska after becoming a fan of John Green on YouTube … all this time though I thought An Abundance of Katherines was his first novel. No matter. Neither are the work of a newby. I don’t know how John does it – he totally has his finger on the YA pulse.

    I also discovered your brilliant blog on Bookwitch … hopefully you don’t mind a comment from the occasional middle-aged obsessive reader of teen novels)

  5. Iffath April 5, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    AWESOME review dude! And I LOVE your last line!! <3

  6. Sorilla April 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Last line rocks! “Looking For Alaska is a hurricane.” This book once was on my TBR list and then got buried under tons of newer ones. But now, after your wonderful review, oh, boy, oh, boy, am I searching for the book!? Thanks,

    ~ Sorilla

  7. Bobby March 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    This remains one of my favourite books, and also one of my favourites of your reviews! Keep up the good work, Rhys ;D

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