Looking For Alaska by John Green (2005)
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
I read this a while ago, and I thought it was quite good when I read it. Looking back though, I’m starting to dislike it more and more, the more I think about it- especially after reading another of John Green’s books (The Fault in Our Stars).
Firstly, the characters are not convincing. How Miles goes from being a complete loser with no friends to even come to a goodbye party, to a drinking, smoking, rebellious guy with plenty of friends is beyond me.
One thing I hate about Green’s writing style is the way he always makes his character have a ‘thing’, whether it’s Miles learning people’s last words, the Colonel memorizing countries, capitals and populations, or Alaska’s books in her ‘Life’s Library’. Whilst some people are ‘quirky’, I just find it completely unbelievable and annoying in this book (an annoyance which is transferred to The Fault in Our Stars and Augustus’ ‘encouragements’). Not everyone is or should be ‘quirky’, and I think it makes the characters a tad pretentious at times.
So, I’ll admit it, I read this after seeing the quote: “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 a hurricane.”
It’s a nice quote, and this book is ‘quotable’ in that sense. It has depth and I did ponder on the ‘How do we escape from the labyrinth of suffering?’ question it poses.
Alaska, I felt, we never really got to know, and she was instead presented as a reflection of how the other characters saw her.
The book never really convinced me, and I guess that’s my main problem: most books try to let the reader relate to them on some level, and I don’t see this book exempt from that, apart from that I couldn’t relate to it simply because I found it too unrealistic.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh- maybe the teenage angst, pranks, smoking, drinking, boarding school and the ‘quirky’ characters are part of a life I wish I’d lived. I think that is one of the main merits of the novel- we all wish we knew Alaska.
This book intrigues and frustrates me because I love it and hate it equally at the same time. It’s worth reading, so try it, because I know some people absolutely love the way John Green writes (I’m just not one of them).