Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Year in Books: Looking for Alaska

"Jesus, I’m not going to be one of those people who sits around talking about what they’re gonna do. I’m just going to do it. Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. ... You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present."

Booze and mischief. That’s what Pudge thinks he’s getting into when he joins up with Culver Creek’s band of miscreants. He decided to attend the Alabama boarding school to seek a Great Perhaps, François Rabelais’s last words (Pudge is a connoisseur of famous last words), instead of just going through the motions of his life at home. He finds more than he bargained for when his roommate, Chip “The Colonel”, introduces him to Alaska Young, the girl down the hall. She is wild, full of life, impulsive, self-destructive, and Pudge falls for her instantly. She introduces Pudge to a new life of breaking rules, smoking on campus, and the prank war that exists between the full time Culver Creek students and the Weekday Warriors (rich local Culver students who go home for the weekends).  

When tragedy strikes Culver Creek, Pudge and his friends are forced to evaluate their relationships, their actions, and learn how to deal with guilt and grief.

LOOKING FOR ALASKA is beautiful. Messed up and funny and gut-wrenching and beautiful. Alaska Young is now one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. She’s a wild child, sure, and is rarely seen without a cigarette in her hand, but she’s much more complex than that. She’s both book and street smart; her room is filled with hundreds of books; and she plans brilliant pranks. She’s an emotional carousel; one moment she’s spunky and cheerful, and the next minute she’s sulking. Essentially, she runs the book. Though Pudge is the narrator, this is Alaska’s story.

The story’s theme I most enjoyed is the labyrinth. Alaska’s favorite last words are those of Simon Bolivar: “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!” She and Pudge spend a great deal of time discussing what the labyrinth is (Life? Death?) and how to escape it. Much of the book is thought-provoking, particularly the scenes in Pudge’s religion class.

It’s hard to say much without giving away the major twists, so READ THIS BOOK. It took me a while to finally pick it up, but once I did, I sat on the couch for five hours and read it. John Green’s writing is raw emotion, and it literally reaches inside you and twists your heart (in a good way). His dialogue is spot on and hilarious at points, completely heartbreaking at others.

Everyone needs to read this book. Girls who don’t like male narrators, guys who think reading YA is stupid, adults who only have time to read one book a year…this is your book. Read it, and then go after your own Great Perhaps. 

3 comments:

  1. I have yet to read a John Green book *hangs head in shame* but I'm going to make up for that real soon.
    I love the way you've framed the review. Sends across the emotions of the book perfectly :)

    Also, I read an excerpt of your writing and it's gorgeous. You're very talented.

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  2. I've only read one John Green book - An Abundance of Katherines. I really liked it and I've heard so many good things about Looking For Alaska so I'll definitely be picking it up soon. I love male narrators :)

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  3. Bee, this was my first John Green book, so don't feel bad! And thank you so much for taking the time to read my writing; it means a lot. <3 Your blog is fantastic, by the way. I love your Championing Contemporary series, YA doesn't get the credit it deserves (especially after the WSJ incident). The YA community is so supportive and protective, though, I love it!

    Linda, An Abundance of Katherines is the next JG book I want to get. There was an excerpt from it at the end of Alaska that hooked me immediately. It's funny, I've always steered away from male narrators for some reason (except for Harry Potter), but JG's narrators are absolutely fantastic! If you have any other male-narrated book recommendations, I'd love to hear them! :]

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