Looking for Alaska by John Green
Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: YA Contemporary
Number of Pages: 256
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: Before. 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. 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.
Discussion: I was having a very difficult time reading Specials, so I decided to take a break from fantasy and dystopian and read a John Green ConRomCom. I finished it in about seven to eight hours. However, I was driving to my grandparents’ house, so I spent a long while in the car.
Like most of John Green’s books, Looking for Alaska features an average geeky boy who falls in love with a spectacular girl. I recognized parallels to Paper Towns. This book was very spiritual in a way, and it makes you think.
Just like what I did for The Bane Chronicles, I used sticky notes. :) So I shall look at those.
Before we get into those, let me just say that Alaska seemed to me a mixture of Margo from Paper Towns and Stargirl from Stargirl. Very spunky, rambunctious, enjoys pranking, and a knockout.
She turned to me as we made our way through the darkness and said, “When you’re walking at night, do you ever get creeped out and even though it’s silly and embarrassing you just want to run home?”
It seemed too secret and personal to admit to a virtual stranger, but I told her, “Yeah, totally.”
For a moment, she was quiet. The she grabbed my hand, whispered, “Run run run run run,” and took off, pulling me behind her.
This is really the first time we see depth to Alaska. She is not some goddess or queen or otherworldy being. She is human. And she has her flaws. Just like Margo Speigelman. ;)
“…And in my classes, I will talk most of the time and you will listen most of the time. Becuause you may be smart, but I have been smart longer…”
This teacher just cracks me up. XD
“…You know what the capital of Sierra Leone is?”
“Me neither,” he said, “but I intend to find out.” And with that, he stuck his nose in the almanac, and the conversation was over.
This is a good introduction to Chip, aka the Coronel, who is Pudge’s [the MC] roommate and friend. He memorizes facts about cities and states in his free time.
“Anyway,” Alaska said to me. “I thought the way he treated you was just awful. I wanted to cry. I just wanted to kiss you and make it better.”
“Shame you didn’t,” I deadpanned, and they laughed.
“You’re adorable,” she said, and I felt the intensity of her eyes on me and looked away nervously. “Too bad I love my boyfriend.” I stared at the knotted roots of the trees on the creek bank, trying hard not too look like I’d just been called adorable.
I SHIP IT. JUST FROM THIS SCENE, I SHIP IT.
“Why do you smoke so damn fast?” I asked.
…”Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.”
Is this a hint of suicide? Does she actually want to die? Or is she joking? IDK. AND IT’S KILLING ME!!!
The coach screamed, “You’re bothering my players!”
“THAT’S THE POINT, SHERLOCK!” the Coronel screamed back. The ref came over and kicked him out of the game. I followed him.
“But why Alaska?” I asked her.
She smiled with the right side of her mouth. “Well, later, I found out what it means. It’s from an Aleut word, Alyeska. It means ‘that which the sea breaks against,’ and I love that. But at that time, I just saw Alaska up there. And it was big, just like I wanted to be. And it was damn far away from Vine Station, Alabama, just like I wanted to be.”
Finding out how Alaska got her name was very fun for me. “That which the sea breaks against” is so beautiful.
This next section has pretty bad language, so I altered it.
“Oh crap did you just diss the feminine gender / I’ll pummel your butt then stick you in a blender / you think I like Tori and Ani so I can’t rhyme / but I got flow like the Ghostbusetrs got slime / objectify women and it’s freakin’ on / you’ll be dead and gone like ancient Babylon.”
So not only is Alaska spunky and unpredictable, she’s a rapping feminist!
I have a lot more sticky notes, and maybe I’ll talk about them in another post, but for now, I’d like to have a discussion.
Near the end of the book, Dr. Hyde presents his class with a very deep question:
How will you–you personally–ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?
This labyrinth of suffering, for me, is insecurity. Whether I’m insecure about how I look or what people think of something I say or do or if I have real friends. More suffering: the past, a jumble of people and words and love. The past that creeps up on me every day. Those people I always feel stiff around, because we have a past that we can’t escape from that makes everything awkward.
How will I get out of this labyrinth? Is the only way out what Alaska said: straight and fast?
I know that sometimes the only way to escape this labyrinth, if only temporarily, is to cry or scream or vent. I will break at any given time and just cry, for no reason or too many to name. Maybe if I just ignore what people say, if I just be me without anyone’s criticism or confirmation, I can escape the labyrinth.
In reality, I think there is no end to the labyrinth. You jsut learn how to cope and suffer through it. Even when you die, there will be suffering. Whether it’s missing the living or we’re reborn into another labyrinth, there will be some form of suffering.
We can choose to live trying to escape the labyrinth, forever searching for pure, serene happiness, or we can live our lives to the maximum the labyrinth allows and be happy, even through the suffering. Life isn’t about crying for yourself, alone and secluded–you have to enjoy life and have experiences. You have to experience love and hate and happiness and melancholy.
Looking for Alaska is a good, light read on the surface. But if you look underneath the romantic and lighthearted plot, you discover a philosophical, deep layer that definitely surprised me.
After I finished the book, I sent John Green a tweet.
He still hasn’t replied. :(
Overall, I saw nothing at all wrong with this book and I loved it, even though the ending was shocking.
How will you escape the labyrinth?