I had always meant to read John Green a lot sooner than this, but now that I’ve finally gotten down to it, I’m on a freaking John Green book spree.
Though this novel’s cover may be seemingly innocuous, the story itself packs some punches that I certainly didn’t see coming. If you’re looking for a happy, feel-good love story to pull you through summer, this will not be that, but it will be amazing. Funny, sad, depressing, and hopeful, Looking for Alaska will lull you into a sense of security with its blunt humor, then smash your heart to bits, then glue it back together and tell you that life is worth all the heart-smashing. The story follows Miles, AKA “Pudge,” as he ventures into his first year at boarding school. Never having had many friends growing up, Pudge is pulled into the the strange friendship circle of the Colonel, Takumi, and the mysterious Alaska, as they pull pranks and unleash general mayhem on the school grounds. Pudge finds himself drawn to Alaska, but every time he thinks he has learned something about her, she only gets harder to pin down. Then, when tragedy strikes and their circle is blown wide open, Pudge and his friends are left frantically searching for answers that they may never find.
I loved how easily the prose slips between lofty philosophical conversations and humor and mischief. The characters are all on their own kinds of quests, some silly, and some far more serious than I could even imagine as I read the first half of the book. An amazing sense of humor carries the book through it’s most difficult chapters; the Colonel and Alaska and Pudge all banter as if they always have the perfect words at hand. And of the Green books I have read thus far, the characters of Looking for Alaska are the most spectacular. Seriously, they are so human, they are almost inhuman. I really enjoyed the perspective of religious belief and life purpose that Pudge’s professor talks about, because regardless of my beliefs, it was really beautiful to hear the story of the woman who would burn down the gates of heaven and put out the fires of hell. At times, the ideas in the novel do almost get a little ambitious for my understanding of the characters, particularly the later monologues about the labyrinth and suffering, but they did fit with the weight of the events in the plot.
If you are going to pick up a John Green novel, this one comes highly recommended by myself. The story is less forgiving than other novels he’s written, but it’s definitely worth it.
At some point, I will try to get back to review the other John Green novels I have read recently, Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines. But start with this one. Really.