Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green

September 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Rating: 4 Stars

As usual with well-hyped books, I went into reading this with certain expectations. My expectations weren’t necessarily met, but I enjoyed the read nonetheless.

The story is told through the eyes of Miles Halter, an introspective skinny kid who makes the decision to attend boarding school in Culver Creek to explore his personal Great Perhaps. One thing I really loved about Miles is his fascination with famous last words – it certainly made for interesting reading.

The narration and flow of the story was wonderful, and I highly enjoyed the transitions between scenes. Another thing that I really liked about Looking For Alaska is that the book is sectioned into two distinct parts: the Before and After.

Spoilers under the Read More!

Life through Miles’ eyes was refreshing to say the least. Similar to Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, we’re presented with a protagonist who is the complete opposite of how most readers view a “hero”. He’s nothing special, doesn’t have many friends, is quiet but not crazy: your Average Joe. The friends he makes at Culver Creek, the Colonel, Alaska, Takumi and Lara, are an eclectic bunch and adds so much sugar and spice to the story and I found them very endearing.

A third into the book, I couldn’t help but think that Alaska was my kind of girl. Impulsive, reckless, intelligent and rebellious as hell. I fell in love with Alaska through her moodswings and her rapier-sharp humor.

I did not expect her to die. At all.

I had been wondering what the day-to-day countdowns were travelling towards, but no way in hell did I expect the Before and After transitions to be based on Alaska’s death. No. Way. I couldn’t believe it, and Green had written this transition and so skillfully wove it throughout the entirety of the book that it left me stunned.

I was left in shock and disbelief, then I felt anger and denial – thinking No, this isn’t right. This story is about Alaska and Miles. She can’t die! My hopeless romantic heart was still pitifully beating a drum in my chest until Alaska’s funeral. I really couldn’t believe it. She was dead. Wait, she’s gone? But that can’t be. Serious denial right here, ladies and gentlemen.

This quote touched me deeply, because it’s so true:

“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”

Again, Looking For Alaska reminds me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. That intense feelings of being untouchable, of being bulletproof simply because of your youth. So damn true.

The last third of the book, where Miles and the Colonel drown in their guilt and attempt to investigate whether or not it was a suicide were… difficult for me to read. I understood that they were burdened with the responsibility of letting Alaska drive away, but I honestly expected there to be a mystery pertaining to her death.

Who knows, maybe John Green is that cunning a writer that he builds his readers up for a great finale only to reveal that it was a simple cause after all. That, in Alaska’s death, she taught the entire Culver Creek boarding school something. That in her death, Miles and the Colonel grew up and made peace with their identities.

I’m sure that’s the underlying meaning of the story, but I still felt cheated. I envisioned a growing, learning experience for Miles. Not a posthumous discovery! Still, I loved Green’s romantic descriptions of Alaska through Miles’ eyes. This particular quote had me breathless:

“I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”

I enjoyed the read because it was fantastically written, but the plot and storyline, the life-changing discoveries and acceptances… I still expected a little bit more due to the hype.


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