Looking for Alaska
by John Green
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy 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. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.
I read Looking for Alaska by John Green immediately after reading his later work, The Fault in our Stars, a book that moved me and that stayed with me several days after finishing. Shame on me: I should know better by now than to read books by the same author back to back – how could I help but compare?! After hanging on every word uttered by Hazel and Gus (in Fault), I kept unconsciously waiting to hear similarly memorable language from Pudge and his friends (in Alaska). Further, Hazel’s dry dark wit (biting, but filled with humor and compassion) is unmatched by Pudge’s less endearing lack of self-esteem and ability to appreciate the absurd minutiae of life. While Hazel is a brave and inspiring, thoughtful and inspired teenage cancer patient, Pudge seems to be somewhat self-absorbed, running from his nerdy unsatisfying home life to a privileged boarding school of more indulgent troubled teens. Even Hazel’s co-characters and fellow cancer patients, Gus and Isaac, engage in less self-pity than Pudge’s friends, Chip and especially Alaska. This is likely more by John Green’s design now that I have read and am considering both books. While I have given negative feedback thus far about Looking for Alaska, I did thoroughly enjoy the reading experience. Only a bit slow during the second half as Pudge and Chip sort through clues as to why and exactly how Alaska’s life ended, the story motivated me to uncover the truth and her motivations along with the friends . Looking for Alaska rates 3 stars from me.