May 19, 2012

Review: Looking for Alaska

By: John Green
Published: December 2006 by Puffin
Format: Paperback, 212 pages
First Reviewed: October 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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After. Nothing is ever the same.

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 (Fran├žois 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. After. Nothing is ever the same.

Rating: 4/5

I've wanted to read this book for a while, but I'm not sure what kept me from actually getting my hands on it. A few weeks ago, I finally did, and after everyone's amazing reviews, I had to bump it up on my list. I'm certainly glad I did.

I think everyone who's read a John Green book, or who at least knows of him, would understand if I just typed JOHN GREEN!!!! and left it at that. But for those of you who are ignorant to the awesomeness that is John Green, then I'll say the following:

He is one of the few authors I've read who can give great voices to not only the narrator, but to all the characters. Almost as if he could give them all their own narratives, even the minor characters. I love that about him. And his writing is smooth and flows so well that I read this book in one setting without even noticing.

What else is utterly fantastic? His messages. Green can pack so much into one line or two of prose and/or dialogue that are just beautiful and so full of meaning. If they don't speak to the reader on some level, well...that reader must not be paying much attention to the book. Anyhow, John Green is awesome. That's all there is to it.

I have one major complaint about the characters, and that's that I didn't get as emotionally attached as I would have liked. At times, I did, and those moments were wonderful, but when I look back I wanted to have cried during some scenes, or had my heart yanked out because of the character attachment and not because of personal reasons. But other than that:

I loved the characters. The Colonel was hilarious and definitely my favorite. The group of friends was diverse and realistic, and I loved their relationships with one another. How they were the type of friends who could accept one another for who they are while still getting in the realistic tiffs. Alaska was flawed in the perfect ways, I thought, with a brokenness I picked up on easily and also understood.

Even the minor characters and teachers were developed, some very interesting and different from typical teachers in books. Overall, I really liked the characters. Just wish I had that emotional attachment all the way throughout.

Like with the characters, I only have one major complaint about the plot, and that's that I felt it was rushed a bit. I would have loved to see a few more scenes or a little bit more substance and deepness to a few parts. I felt like I was just getting into Before, just beginning to really feel Pudge's feelings for Alaska before After hit. Which, you know, was the point, but...er...hmph. I'm not sure how I want to explain what I mean. I loved how far the two came before it happened, but I guess I just wanted more from Pudge internally beforehand, so when everything changed, I really felt the change.

Anyway, that was my only issue. This book hit me hard personally, in more ways than one. January, car, depression, etc. It was impossible not to be impacted by this. I think it'd be impossible for anyone not to be impacted by this in some way or another. Things the characters go through were relatable and realistic, and they each dealt with them in different ways, which was also believable.

But there wasn't just gorgeous messages and hidden labyrinth of suffering, there was also humor, and I found myself laughing out loud at some parts. As well as some sub-plot, boarding school prankery. Everything together made this a wonderful read.

Other: I must say I think some of the scenes got a little too detailed for me, if you know what I mean. There is a lot of talk of sex, as well as drinking, smoking, and language. The language didn't bother me, but sometimes the obsessive drinking and smoking did. Luckily it didn't take away from the point of the story, and actually helped in some ways. Also, can I just say that I wish my parents had let me name myself?

Did I love this book? Yes. Did I love as much as I expected to? Hmm...no, actually. When I cried, it wasn't because the book made me; it was because of personal memories and connections. When I cry with a book, I want it to be because of the emotional connection I have with the characters and the story in general, not because I can't shake my own personal story. However, the messages in this were just beautiful, the characterization in general was wonderful, and the writing was fantastic. John Green is a genius, of course. Overall, I did love this and consider it one everyone should read at least once.

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