Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Publisher by Dutton Books
Date Published: March 23, 2005
Rating: 5/5
Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps."

Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

I know that I'm 5 years behind on reading this book, but it still stands among the best works of modern literature. If you hadn't heard of it before it won the Printz Award in 2006, you have since. This was John Green's debut novel, but remains his best to date.

Going into this novel, I really had no idea what it was about. I had heard so much praise for it, but never had I taken the initiative to actually pick it up and see for myself if it lived up to its hype. The summary given on the back of the book is quite a mysterious and vague summary, more so than others. The book is split into two acts with the first being "Before" followed by a chronological daily countdown representing a "chapter break", but unless you know the full story, you're left in anticipation and confusion as to what happens that constitutes a countdown of such a large scale. If you have read the book, I think you would agree with me that it was unexpected. If you haven't, you need to.

Looking for Alaska was my experience reading John Green's work. I've watched him and Hank do Vlogbrothers before and I am a Nerdfighter if there ever was one, but you don't get the real John Green until you read one of his books. His way of writing is so personal and real there's no doubt this could have been based on a true story. There's even a Nationally recognized holiday (if Nerdfighteria were a country) called Alaska Young Memorial Day that is observed on January 10 every year.

Looking for Alaska is a story every teenager can relate to. It follows the story of Miles, aka Pudge, leaving his normal, white picket fence life in Florida to go to Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama, his dad's Alma Mater, searching for the "Great Perhaps". He went away so that he could choose his own destiny, not have it chosen for him by others. The first few days, he met the friends he would stick closest to during his time at CCPS. The Colonel, his roommate and best friend and Alaska, a gorgeous girl with a bad side.

I really loved the way John developed the characters. He told you almost everything you needed to know about a character upon meeting them, but would add new info over time, which helped with character development.

When you think of YA as a whole, you wouldn't necessarily include Philosophy among the top reasons you pick up a book. I wouldn't. In fact, I didn't even know this book was as philosophicaly involved as it was until I actually picked it up and read it. But if I had to choose my favorite part of the story, that would be it. The search for the "Great Perhaps", how to get out of the Labyrinth, famous last words-- these all stick out in my mind as a driving force of the story. And would you believe that early drafts of the novel had no mention of these at all? After the last page you will be more open minded and, if you weren't already, will become a fan of John Green.

If you haven't read any of John Green's works, I would advise you to start here.


  1. Fantastic review! You're right that this book is special in that it makes you think in a different way than other books in the genre. It's one of those books that you read and never forget.

    I can't believe the early drafts had no mention of the Labyrinth! That's crazy. It was such an important part of the story.

  2. HAHAHAHA. I'm 13. But I love this book :P On page 181. Great review :D

  3. Just a note, Alaska isn't blonde.  Pudge mentions that the "dark mahogany" of the casket is the same color as her hair.  

  4. Actually, another note... Chip is called the Colonel, not the General.  Are you sure you actually read the book?

  5. I was also surprised at how philosophical concepts and other serious matters were made so available in this book. It was definitely a different experience from other YA contemporaries that are being written these days. Great review!

    - Alyssa of Redhead Heroines

    Book Review of “Looking for Alaska” by John Green

  6. I thought the exact same thing! This book really made me think about what I was reading rather than just flying through it. The issues brought up were relevant and well written. Definitely a unique contemporary that sets the bar high for all others. I'm looking forward to re-reading this one again and again!

  7. i love JOHN GREEN :) have a nice day!