Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Release Date: March 2005
Looking for Alaska is the coming of age story of Miles Halter, a lonely sixteen-year-old who is obsessed with last words and is in search of the Great Perhaps. He has lived in Florida with his parents his entire life and has never really experienced life or made any friends. In search of an adventure, Miles decides to move to Alabama and attend the same boarding school that his father did, Culver Creek. At Culver Creek, Miles becomes roommates with Chip, also known as the Colonel, who is a small guy with a large brain. He is best friends with a girl named Alaska, an incredibly moody and reckless sixteen-year-old who helps Chip teach Miles how to drink, smoke, pull pranks, and get a girlfriend. Miles begins to feel like a teenager as he experiences love, lust, and friendship for the first time, until a tragedy shakes Culver Creek. This event devastates Miles and those around him. Miles and Chip begin to investigate the cause of this tragedy and both must learn to cope with the loss.
Looking for Alaska is divided into two parts: Before and After. Without spoiling the novel, a tragedy occurs in January at Culver Creek, deeply affecting Miles and the entire school. The book is written from the perspective of Miles and the reader is privy to many of his philosophical musings throughout the book, both before and after the tragedy. I thought that Miles was very similar to Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, especially after the unfortunate event.
I don’t know if I really loved any of the characters in this novel. Miles could get a bit depressing and preachy at times, but I thought that his growth through the novel seemed authentic. Chip was the planner in the group and although he came from humble beginnings, he was very ambitious and intelligent. He might have been the only character who had any goals for after high school. Lara and Takumi were just kind of place holders throughout the story and Green didn’t really develop these characters much. Then, there’s the character in which the title refers to: Alaska Young. She is intelligent, sarcastic, incredibly feminist, and horribly moody. As Miles spends more time with Alaska, her depression becomes apparent, but he seems to fall even more in love with her. The love that Miles feels for Alaska seems slightly superficial, as it is mostly based off of her looks, and he admits numerous times that he doesn’t really know her. After Green reveals more about Alaska’s past, it is easy to sympathize with her and it kind of explains why she acts the way she does. Still, she could be very unpredictable and even Miles and Chip found her to be annoying at times.
This novel includes some mature themes that may not be appropriate for younger readers. There is smoking, drinking, sexual situations, and foul language throughout the book. These situations may be things that older teenagers deal with, but I would not recommend it to anyone who has not yet entered high school. I think that older teenagers and young adults will be able to appreciate the content more than someone who is younger.
Looking for Alaska was a quick and easy read and I did like it, but I don’t think it was as good as Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Looking for Alaska could get a bit heavy into the philosophical and religious quandaries of the protagonist, Miles. I do enjoy the way Green writes, though, and I found the book to be very well written. If you are interested in a fun read and you enjoy Green’s style of writing, I would recommend this.