Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green


Pages: 221
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: March 3, 2005
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (Fran├žois Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. After. Nothing is ever the same."
Miles, or Pudge as his friends call him, decides to take a chance by going to a boarding school in Alabama; it happens to be the same boarding school where his father went and he's hoping it will be the right fit for him.  At his old school, he dissolved into the background and pretty much had no friends. He spent most of his time learning the last words of famous people.  At his new school, he is off to a good start, because he is rooming with Chip or "the Colonel" who is super smart and loves pranks.  Also, he starts hanging out with the elusive and charismatic Alaska.  Alaska is everything that scares him; she's a bit of a free spirit, sexual, eloquent, impulsive and along with the Colonel, likes to live dangerously from time to time.  Pudge starts morphing into someone he never thought he would be and is actually enjoying himself.  This award winning debut from John Green is a memorable one.  In true Green fashion, there are moments that made me laugh uncontrollably, moments that made me sob like a baby, and other moments that made me want to stop and marinate in his beautiful writing.  In sum, Looking for Alaska is an outstanding contemporary read that shouldn't be missed.

Pudge feels similar to many of Green's other protagonists, but I kind of like the whole geeky and intellectual vibe that they all emit.  Pudge and his group of friends are awesome and their antics are even better.  I loved reading about his transformation, his desire to fit in, and his growth as a person.  He decided to go to boarding school to see what Rabelais (the famous poet) refers to as the "Great Perhaps" and it's everything he had hoped for and more. His time at boarding school requires him to stretch outside of his comfort zone, live a little and form friendships.  Speaking of friendships, the Colonel is downright awesome and he made for an interesting roommate for Pudge. Alaska is the enigmatic girl down the hall who holds many secrets and as I learned more and more about her, I found myself, like Pudge, even more interested in her.  Let's just say all of the characters in Looking for Alaska were so very memorable and larger than life.

What is so unforgettable about Looking for Alaska is the fact that it is so darn smart. It makes you think.  For example, Pudge's obsessions with famous people's last words is the opposite of morbid; instead, I found it to be extremely captivating. It made me ponder things. Plus, let's talk about Pudge's religion teacher. BRILLIANT! Can I please be in that class?  The questions that they discussed, the essay topics, the lectures were so incredibly thought provoking.  I simply loved it and somehow wanted to be transported to Pudge's school in Looking for Alaska.  

I can't say enough about Green's writing. I am such a huge fan; there's something about it that really reaches the reader. His dialogue is snappy, funny, and real. I felt like I was living within the story and when the inevitable moment comes when I shed a tear, it felt so emotional….like I really knew the characters.  That's the power of John Green.

Of course tragedy strikes in Looking for Alaska and I could feel it coming, but I didn't mind, because that's life.  Things don't always end perfectly and life can be messy.  You can't always expect Green's novels to include unicorns and butterflies, but you can expect them to make you feel things, think about life, and appreciate a good story.  In the end, Looking for Alaska concluded the way that it should and I felt simultaneously heartbroken and happy, but more importantly, I was sad that I had reached the book's final page.  And that is the mark of an impressive and haunting read and one that I highly recommend.

16 comments:

  1. I liked this book quite a bit, but I picked it up to read after The Fault In Our Stars (which I loved) and thus was a. It disappointed.

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    1. Yes, it's a very different read than TFiOS, but I enjoyed it just as much…maybe you could pick it up again in the future? Thanks for visiting!!

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  2. I need to Green's older books. This one is high on my tbr list.

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    1. I wanted to read some of his older books as well….I wasn't disappointed. I liked this one more than Paper Towns though. Thanks for visiting, Linda!

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  3. I have read two of Green's novels - TFiOS and Paper Towns. I really need to read Looking for Alaska. I've heard amazing things about this one, and it did win the Printz Award which is a big deal. I'm glad you liked it. I might try it via audiobook.

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    1. I liked this one a bit more than Paper Towns…you should definitely check it out. Audiobook version of this book would definitely be cool…I hope you get to read it soon. Thanks for visiting, Quinn.

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  4. I've only read TFiOS by Mr. Green, but have mean meaning to pick up some of his older books. This sounds like a good place to start. I love it when teachers are portrayed positively and a class actually sounds interesting in a YA novel. That's so rare. Great review! I'll definitely give this one a look.

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    1. YES!! Although many people aren't a fan of this particular teacher, the main character is and obviously I am as well. LOVED him! You should definitely give this book a try. I liked it more than Paper Towns. Thank you for visiting, Natalie!

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  5. I read this when I was younger, but I barely remember it now (except I do remember liking the characters - they really were memorable and so smart). I need to reread LFA soon (especially after loving TFIOS)!

    Fabulous review, Christina!

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    1. You should definitely re-read it…but you are right…so memorable and smart. I loved TFIOS as well and I thought this was just as good. Thanks for dropping by, Lea!

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  6. I read this book aloud to a group of mostly male non-readers and they really liked it. It was my first John Green, but like everyone else, I prefer TFiOS. Great review!

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    1. Yes, TFiOS is incredible! Completely agree, but I feel like Looking for Alaska is just as good, but in a different way…if that makes sense. :) I love that boys enjoy this book as well…that's the power of John Green…it's never just a "boy" book or "girl" book, which I LOVE! Thanks for visiting, Maggie!

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  7. Can you believe it - I have yet to read John Green. I really need to amend that soon!

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    1. OMG. You need to read John Green. He is such an awesome writer. You should read TFiOS before the movie comes out. Thanks for dropping by, Leanna!

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  8. I loved The Fault in Our Stars (the only full novel by John Green that I've read) and I will have to read this one sometime too.

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    1. Yes! TFiOS is awesome and Looking for Alaska is pretty great as well…I recommend starting with that book next! Thanks for visiting, Christina!

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