Week 9 Part 2–Looking for Alaska

I was an instant fan of John Green after reading his novel An Abundance of Katherines.  Having just finished Looking for Alaska, I must say that my opinion has not changed one single bit, unless of course it is for my admiration to have risen even higher than it already was.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=014241221X&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrMiles is an awkward and unpopular teenager who opts to leave Florida for a boarding school in Alabama.  There, he finds himself a group of loyal (if rambunctious) friends, with whom he shares a variety of adventures.  Here he takes his first drag of a cigarette, his first sip of alcohol, and reaches first, second, and third base for the first time. A common past time among the students at this boarding school is playing pranks on each other, a few of which include diverting a gutter during a rainstorm to flood someone’s room, and putting industrial strength blue dye in a boy’s hair gel.

The name Alaska in the title does not reference the state, but is the name of a character–an ultra-feminist girl with a penchant for sex, cigarettes, bad wine, and manic episodes.  Miles can’t decide whether he’s in love with her or not, finding himself drawn to her beauty and free spirit but repelled by her tendency to be vague and evasive.  Rather than chapter titles, the book is divided into two parts, “Before” and “After” (before and after what the book summary does not reveal, and therefore I won’t either, because the mystery of that adds so much flavor to the novel), and each part is divided into segments labeled with either a countdown or count-up (if that isn’t a word, it should be) of days from the event in question.

The novel is equal parts fun and depressing, and I enjoyed the dark humor.  For instance, Miles’ friend and roommate, known as “The Colonel” made me laugh out loud with his witty sarcasm nearly every time he opened his mouth.  I get tired of reading teeny-bopper novels full of slap-stick and corny comedy.  The humor in Green’s novel is based on a teenager’s sardonic and disillusioned view of his world and experience.  It explores the issues that many of us faced as a teenager–peer pressure and the choice to give in or not, events which we are powerless to control and which change our lives and affect our outlook on nearly everything, striking out on our own without our parents, keeping secrets, betraying friends, and trying to navigate the complicated confusion of out-of-control hormones.  To conclude, I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone.  John Green is one of those rare YA novelists who doesn’t irritate me with bad endings, bad diction, or boring plot.  He’s a wonderful writer, and this book is a work of art. Read!


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