Tuesday, March 20, 2012

‘Looking for Alaska’ by John Green

Reviewed by Jesi

Sixteen-year-old Miles Halter's adolescence has been one long nonevent - no challenge, no girls, no mischief, and no real friends. Seeking what Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps," he leaves Florida for a boarding school in Birmingham, AL. His roommate, Chip, is a dirt-poor genius scholarship student with a Napoleon complex who lives to one-up the school's rich preppies. Chip's best friend is Alaska Young, with whom Miles and every other male in her orbit falls instantly in love. She is literate, articulate, and beautiful, and she exhibits a reckless combination of adventurous and self-destructive behavior. She and Chip teach Miles to drink, smoke, and plot elaborate pranks. Alaska's story unfolds in all-night bull sessions, and the depth of her unhappiness becomes obvious.
(Amazon product description)

And the John Green love-fest continues!  Seriously, I think I may be falling in literary love with him.  Each one of his characters is someone I genuinely want to hang out with.  Someday, I am going to become famous and powerful in the literary world, and John Green and Richelle Mead will be my BFF’s.  We will finish each other’s sentences and make people feel excluded by our plethora of inside jokes. Until then, shall we get back to the book review?

In typical John Green fashion, the teens in Looking for Alaska are quirky and intelligent, yet incredibly realistic.  Miles hasn’t made much of an impact at his high school, so he goes to boarding school looking for adventure...or at least something different from his boring life.  Through his roommate, Chip (who insists on people calling him The Colonel), Miles is drawn into an eclectic group of mischief-makers.  He learns how to smoke, drink, stage elaborate pranks and gets his first experience with girls.  Each character in the group is so unique, but Green crafts a strong chemistry between them.  The Colonel is bossy and too smart for his own good.  Tikumi is a free-style rapper.  Lara is from Romania.  She comes across as timid at first, but she has an underlying strength and courage inside.  And then there is Alaska.  Alaska is outspoken, impulsive, reckless, sexy and incredibly damaged.  Every boy except for The Colonel is half in love with her. 

As you can probably guess by the title, the plot of the novel revolves around Alaska, yet this is definitely Miles’s story.  He is the character who grows and changes throughout the story.  Alaska acts more like a catalyst for his transformation.  That’s my take anyway.  I’m sure some people could argue Alaska was the main character.  But as interesting as Alaska was, I was drawn more to Miles.  I found her too reckless and moody. 

Something I loved about this book was that the author allowed the boys to show their emotions.  More than once, they were allowed to cry.  Yes, we all know boys can cry, but they also fight to hide these emotions.  There is a scene after a particularly horrible event where Miles and The Colonel are standing in front of their car holding each other and crying, and it was so moving.  Not once do they fear of what others might think about them.  For this reason alone, I think teen boys should read this book.

My only problem with the book, and it was minor, was that when Miles finally admitted to himself that he loved Alaska, it felt like the timing was off.  I understand why he was attracted to her, but the “L” word was dropped a little too soon.  I don’t really think he loved her anyway.  He was drawn to her because she was everything he was not, but part of him wished he could be.  I think he cared for her deeply.  But theirs was not really a romantic relationship. 

Last, and I hate to do this, I have to issue a bit of a warning to some parents.  There are a few things in this book which some sensitive parents might not like their teens reading, especially younger teens.  I guess if you are someone who cares about these things, you might want to read it yourself first before you buy it for your kid.  (Although, parents, unless your kids are abnormally sheltered, they know about all of this stuff already.)

Overall, I give Looking for Alaska...

Plot - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Character Development - 5 bookmarks
Dialog - 5 bookmarks (witty, but not unrealistically so)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Kristin Stewart (Alaska), David Kross (Miles), Joshua Logan Moore (The Colonel)


  1. I have been looking at this one forever! Not being the biggest YA fan...this looked interesting...your self proclaimed love for this author has motivated me...

  2. His characters are wonderful! So intelligent and unique. Something about these kids makes me think about my best friend from high school. We liked to get in trouble one minute and debate books the next. :)