19 March, 2015

Book Review: Looking for Alaska

From Goodreads: A deeply affecting coming-of-age story, Looking for Alaska traces the journey of Miles Halter, a misfit Florida teenager who leaves the safety of home for a boarding school in Alabama and a chance to explore the "Great Perhaps." Debut novelist and NPR commentator Green perfectly captures the intensity of feeling and despair that defines adolescence in this hip, shocking, and emotionally charged work of fiction.
Miles has a quirky interest in famous people's last words, especially Fran├žois Rabelais's final statement, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." Determined not to wait for death to begin a similar quest, Miles convinces his parents to let him leave home. Once settled at Culver Creek Preparatory School, he befriends a couple of equally gifted outcasts: his roommate Chip―commonly known as the Colonel—who has a predilection for memorizing long, alphabetical lists for fun; and the beautiful and unpredictable Alaska, whom Miles comes to adore.
The kids grow closer as they make their way through a school year filled with contraband, tests, pranks, breakups, and revelations about family and life. But as the story hurtles toward its shattering climax, chapter headings like "forty-six days before" and "the last day" portend a tragic event―one that will change Miles forever and lead him to new conclusions about the value of his cherished "Great Perhaps."

Thoughts: Like many people, I fell in love with John Green's writing through The Fault in Our Stars. Looking for Alaska was his first book and while not quite the power house The Fault in Our Stars is, it still packs a punch. 
Green takes you and places you in the teenage world and makes you see what is possible. Sure, the characters a little bit unbelievable, but if you took normal teenagers and put them in a book, it wouldn't be that interesting. Your characters need to be outside of what we think teenagers are for a couple of reasons. First it reminds readers that societal stereotypes are just that - stereotypes. And while there are those who fit that picture perfectly, there are also those who don't. There are teenagers who appear wise beyond their years, who read and comprehend above their age group, who think deeply and feel differently to others. There are those that form strong, dynamic, once in a life time friendships. In fact there are most probably more of those than we realise. Secondly I believe it shows teens what is possible - that they don't have to fit the stereotypes set by society, that they can and do have extraordinary events happen and the way they react to them is not the same as everyone else and that's OK.
As with TFIOS, it was fairly obvious what was going to happen. The beauty in the book is how the reader is lead to the pivotal point and the journey the characters go on after it. While I never found myself sobbing in this book, I felt for the characters and their pain - the pain of loss, of grief and guilt. Given the runaway success of the screen adaptation of TFIOS, I'm not surprised to here that this too is likely to be made into a movie. I've already put Green's next book An Abundance of Katherines on hold at the library. Hopefully I will continue to be impressed.

Looking for Alaska gets 4 stars

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing

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