Looking for Alaska
by: John GreenBefore. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same.
So, I started reading this about a year ago (at that point it was going to be my first John Green book, but I have since read The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns). The first time I didn't make it more than a chapter or two in before stopping. I don't remember the exact reason, but now I'm sort of glad I did. Because that means that I could read it for the first time now (and also this way my first experience with his books was The Fault in our Stars).
Having read three of his four books (including both his earliest and his most recent) I can say that you can definitely see his growth as a writer, which is brilliant to be able to experience. I've heard other reviewers say that his books are all so alike that it's off-putting, but I disagree. Yes, you can definitely tell that it's John Green because of his signature quirky style. And yes, the books have similar feels because of this, but the stories he tells are vastly different. Although, I will allow that Q and Miles are very similar both in what they say and how they talk (even a bit of their humor). But they're also both high school boys who actually have a fair amount in common (being sort of quiet types with funny friends and a little higher than average intelligence. Both being completely obsessed with girls they can't have).
What I think is that John Green uses his particular style and his particular type of wisdom to tell stories that are both relatable and not relatable. Let me explain: Her writes about teenagers and for teenagers. But not all teenagers are the same and so, consequently, neither are his characters. There are things that I can relate to in all of his books because I've experienced something similar and there are also things that I won't ever (and don't want to) experience. And that's the point. Books are experiencing the character's reality and making connections to your own on whatever level.
So, all of that being said, for the actual review I'm going to talk about the overall story of this book rather than pointing out specific characters to talk about because you can't really talk about one without involving another.
I loved the before and after separation and how they covered the exact same number of days. I knew what it was leading up to, of course. Because this book has been out for a good 8-ish years and you can't expect the internet to hold spoilers for that long. But, I knew what was going to happen in The Fault in our Stars (and plenty of other books) before reading them and it doesn't really change my relationship with a book too much.
I loved Miles and the gang, particularly the Colonel. The Colonel was my very favorite. And quite honestly Alaska was my least favorite. But just because a character is unlikeable doesn't mean that is a bad thing. Alaska was often selfish and bratty, but she was also spunky and funny and smart. She wasn't just one thing. She had depth and that's the most important thing for a character.
I loved their group friendship. They were constantly teasing each other and pulling pranks and breaking the rules. It was added a fun sort of feel to the before section.
Little things I really loved:
-I really hate sports, but I WANT TO GO TO A BASKETBALL GAME WITH COLONEL SOOOO BADLY.
-Takumi with his rapping
-Miles with his last words.
(if you'd like to avoid the massive spoiler of this book, you probably shouldn't keep reading. But hey, you do what you want.)
The thing that hit me the hardest was Colonel screaming "I'm so sorry."
I think the best part of this book was the friendship between Miles, Takumi, and Colonel that developed even more in the after section. The pranks and jokes at the beginning had their own sort of feel and then it was so genuine seeing their friendship shifted by their loss of Alaska. I think you really see who they each are (and they see each other) in their grief.
I liked that eventually Colonel and Miles learned to not think of her like they wanted to remember her, but as she actually was. She WAS selfish most of the time and she was a bit bratty and unnecessarily aloof, but that didn't mean they loved her less. And I loved that they had to find peace in not knowing, in never knowing, exactly what happened that night. Because at some point we're all going to have to deal with big unanswered questions. It's a part of life.
"I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails."
"Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia."
"So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane."
""Scared isn't a good excuse!" she shouted into the couch. "Scared is the excuse everyone has always used"
"Like the way the sun is right now, with the long shadows and that kind of bright, soft light you get when the sun isn't quite setting? That's the light that makes everything better, everything prettier, and today, everything just seemed to be in that light."
"So she became impulsive, scared by her inaction into perpetual action."
"It always shocked me when I realized that I wasn't the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things."
"If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can't know better until knowing better is useless."
"...she collapsed into the enigma of herself."
"We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken."