Looking for Alaska (2005) was John Green’s debut young adult novel (remember him? He wrote the novels-turned-films The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns). It won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association.
I have no words.
Honestly, this book should be used as prescription medication for psychopaths; it is IMPOSSIBLE to feel nothing. I am feeling SO MANY THINGS just writing this blog.
“Francois Rabelais. He was a poet. And his last words were “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” That’s why I’m going. So I don’t have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.”
Miles Halter leaves his dull hometown and two-dimensional parents to seek a “great perhaps” (classic John Green metaphor) at Culver Creek, a boarding school, during his Junior year. Miles, now nicknamed “Pudge” by his esh lad roomie Chip “the colonel” Martin, has an obsession with the dying words of famous people.
The enticing but emotionally unstable Alaska Young is the next to befriend Pudge, and it’s infatuation at first site – for Pudge, anyway. Even though he decides he loves Alaska, he ends up dating another girl just because. Yeah, men are shit like that. Accurate representation, my dear John Green
But I’m digressing.
It’s a truly wonderful story. John Green is far too magical to be human. I love how the love story (or lack thereof) between Alaska and Pudge is portrayed; it just hangs in the atmosphere, like so many modern-day teenage romances.
“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.”
Alaska comes with her own set of metaphors. Her favourite dying phrase is from Simon Bolivar; Damn it. How will I ever get out of this labyrinth! The ‘labyrinth’ becomes discussion for the duration of the novel. Is the labyrinth life? Is it death? Suffering?
223 pages of hilarious teenage awkwardness, friendship, rule-breaking and epic pranks follow. These events tie together the most genuine attempt at exploring the meaning of life (and death) that I have ever encountered – and I read half the bible in year five.
Green put this story together so beautifully. The tale isn’t plot driven, for the first half at least. It reads simply and beautifully as we join the gang on their adventures. However, instead of chapters, Green begins each day with 89 days before, 23 days before and so on, until the day before and the day after. It’s a subtle urgency that underlies the somewhat passive, yet enjoyable events of day to day life at Culver Creek until the day arrives (and I guarantee you will never recover from this). It’s such a dignified way to build drama, but without making the impending event the focus of the story; the thoughts and adventures of Pudge are still centre stage.
The second half of the novel deals with the tragedy which has occurred. This is where the labyrinth metaphor takes the steering wheel, and the significance of ‘last words’ is questioned, plus a whole lot of other symbolic emotions.Then, just when you’re convinced you will never smile again, Green hits you with THE PRANK OF THE CENTURY and the one salvation in life’s hardships, laughter, hits your heavy heart like a freight train. Pure genius.
I just don’t understand why no-one has made this novel into a movie? This is basically a crime against humanity. Paramount Pictures purchased the film rights way back in 2005 but has been “shelved indefinitely” as of 2016, for the second time.
Paramount, get your shit together.
The novel received some criticism for profanity and being ‘pornographic’ (LOL). The most graphically-written scene is probably the one when Alaska deep-throats a tube of toothpaste to show Pudge and Lara “how it’s done”; strange and lowkey distasteful to some audiences maybe, but pornographic?
I’m not even going to add a star rating plugin here, because if you don’t think this is a five fucking star piece of artwork, you are a lying little shit, so I will find your address and decapitate you in your sleep.
-Claire 🙂 ❤