Sunday, February 16, 2020

Book Review: "Looking for Alaska" by John Green

Miles Halter had a pretty boring life in Florida. He didn't really have friends and did well enough in school, but there really wasn't much that sparked his interest. Except, of course, famous last words—he loved finding out what people's last words were and memorizing them.

One day, he realized he wanted more out of life. Inspired by the poet François Rabelais, whose last words were "I go to seek a Great Perhaps," Miles convinces his parents to send him to boarding school in Alabama, the same school his father attended. He hopes that the change of school, the change of scenery will set his life on a new, more exciting course.

Culver Creek is an interesting place, although Miles wonders if he'll ever get used to the oppressive heat of Alabama. (Anyone who thinks living in Florida prepared him is dead wrong.) He quickly makes friends with his roommate Chip, aka "The Colonel," a scholarship student with an enormous chip on his shoulder toward the "Weekday Warriors," the rich kids who go home on the weekends. Chip tends to drag Miles along with him almost everywhere, so it's not long before he has a small circle of misfit friends.

But it's Alaska Young who gets Miles' full attention. Opinionated, moody, larger-than-life, and absolutely beautiful, Miles is drawn to her almost immediately, but she has a boyfriend in college she isn't willing to cheat on. Alaska has their entire social circle in her thrall, even if the rest of the student body isn't as enamored because of something they think she might have done, and she leads the group in some pretty legendary pranks.

Late one night, when Miles, the Colonel, and Alaska are hanging out and drinking, Alaska suddenly gets a phone call and when she returns, she becomes tremendously emotional and leaves. And in a split second, everything changes, and Miles, the Colonel, and their friends have to figure out what sent Alaska away so late at night.

Looking for Alaska is an interesting book about the impact one person can have on your life, and how being willing to step outside your shell can actually result in wonderful things. As with many John Green books, the characters are far more sarcastic and intellectual than your average teenagers, but that never seems to bother me that much.

I enjoyed the book and found parts of it emotional, but it wasn't as powerful as I was expecting it to be. I loved The Fault in Our Stars and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (which Green wrote with David Levithan) and also really enjoyed Paper Towns and Turtles All the Way Down. This one just didn't seem to have as much of a spark the whole way through.

I learned that Hulu did an adaptation of the book, so I'll have to watch that now to see how it differs.

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