What I’m Reading: LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green

I’ve read a few books by the talented John Green. This one is my favorite.

Summary from the inside jacket:

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 (François Rabelais, poet). He heads off to… 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.

Nothing about this book caught me off guard. I saw Alaska’s fate coming, and I knew the story that followed would be about characters dealing with that loss. And even still, I could not put it down. I hung on words and was moved at the end, and I think this is—to put it simply—because John Green is a fabulously gifted writer.

John Green seems to do a few things unbelievably well in his books:

  • He effortlessly captures the absolutely overwhelming emotional rollercoster that is growing up
  • He infuses otherwise stereotypical characters with ticks and habits that make them feel, and relatable
  • He crafts a near timeless world, where his stories seem to unfold outside of modern-day, but still feel current

On the emotional rollercoaster of growing up (bullet #1)… I think teens and young adults are so emotionally invested in life because they are so full of hope, but also so burdened by uncertainties. Everyone is trying to find themselves, to find their way. In LOOKING FOR ALASKA Green’s characters must learn to deal with loss and death, to accept it and plow forward. In AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES it was the desire to want to matter, to do something great with your life in a world of millions. These are dark and serious topics, emotional ones…things some adults even still struggle with.

Green also writes dynamic, layered characters, but its their ticks (bullet #2) that make them seem so real. In LOOKING FOR ALASKA Pudge memorizes last words, his roommate knows every capital to every country on the globe and Alaska preaches words from her scholarly books while flaunting her electric blue nail polish. They pull pranks and drink cheap wine and nickname everything in sight. And they do all these things in a world that could have been my high school years, or the world of a current high-schooler, or even one of decades passed (bullet #3).

This has somehow become a rant on why I love John Green’s writing and less of a review of LOOKING FOR ALASKA. I’m not apologizing for this though, because I think discussing the crafting of characters and worlds and themes done by Green is more interesting than any review I could do on just a single book of his.

Anyone who can write words that pull me back to when I was a teen, cause me to think about deep issues in life that I am still coming to terms with today (death, mattering, etc), and manage to make me both smile and tear up at the same time, has my vote. For future reads. For recommendations. For well-deserved credit. Well done, Mr. Green. Well done.

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