Looking for Alaska, John Green

[amazon_image id=”0142402516″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]Looking for Alaska[/amazon_image]John Green’s young adult novel [amazon_link id=”0142402516″ target=”_blank” ]Looking for Alaska[/amazon_link] is the story of Miles “Pudge” Halter, who goes to boarding school in Alabama—at his request—after telling his parents he thinks going there will help him seek “the Great Perhaps,” in the last words of François Rabelais. Miles collects the last words of famous people. Once at Culver Creek School, he quickly makes friends with his roommate, Chip Martin, better known as “The Colonel,” and Alaska Young, a free-spirited, intelligent, but troubled girl in his grade at school. He quickly develops a crush on Alaska. Alaska and the Colonel get Pudge into all kinds of trouble with their pranks, smoking, drinking, and sneaking around, but they also offer him a kind of acceptance he hasn’t experienced before. This next bit is a little spoilery, so I’m going to put it after the cut…

If you’re still reading, then that means you either don’t mind spoilers or you’ve read the book.

Alaska dies in a car accident about halfway through the book. She leaves, drunk and crying hysterically in the middle of the night, and crashes into a police cruiser on I-65. Her friends investigate her death, trying to come to terms with the loss of their friend and to discover whether or not her death was a suicide.

In reading this book, I was struck by the fact that it is a fairly accurate portrayal of how teenagers grieve when they lose a friend their age. I remember attending the funeral of a sixteen-year-old boy many years ago, and the outpouring of grief from teenagers who didn’t know the boy and hadn’t been a great friend of his during life struck me. I didn’t necessarily think it was fake. I think they really felt the grief they were expressing. But from the perspective of an adult, it seemed out of place. Pudge only knows Alaska for about four months prior to her death, and while they were friends, and he did have a crush on her, his devastation at her death is the kind of devastation only a teenager can feel after losing one of his own. That isn’t to say it isn’t real devastation. It’s just not the same as the way I might feel losing a friend who was around the same age as I am, especially one I had known four months. There is an intensity to adolescence that maddening for adults who are too far removed from the drama of being a teenager, but it’s not any less real for that, and John Green captures that intensity very well.

This book probably has more appeal for its intended audience. I admit to not liking Alaska very much, and I kept wanting to say to Pudge that he needed to get a grip—he’d known the girl for four months—but like I said, things like that are different when you’re a teenager than they are when you’re 40. It was a good read, and I would highly recommend it to teenagers, but perhaps not fans of YA who are a little more A and a little too far removed from Y.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Full disclosure: I checked this book out of my school library.

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2 thoughts on “Looking for Alaska, John Green

  1. I had a similar reaction to this book as you did … I felt too A for it as well. I felt it was too high strung and dramatic … but I know I'm alone in feeling that way. You were kinder to the book than I was.

    1. I called four stars because I liked it. I think I had a harder time giving it fewer stars because my daughter seems to like it so much.

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