Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, 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, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
I was so incredibly excited when I found out my school library had bought this book because The Fault in Our Stars, which is also by John Green is one of my favorite books of all time. Besides The Fault in Our Stars, I hadn't read any other of his books before but I loved his writing style so I decided to check this one out, despite warnings from friends that it would "rip my heart to pieces".
The cover really caught my eye and was one of the reasons I decided to check it out. At first I thought
"Alaska" was the place Alaska but upon reading the back of the book I found that she was actually a character. The cover art was what grabbed my attention-I love the wisps of smoke rising from the candle and how it all ties in with the story. (I have to say though, that I absolutely hate the font of the book title). It made me want to read the book, to find out how a candle and a girl named Alaska tie in with each other.
The book is divided into two sections, "before" and "after". The first half of the book, the "before" is about what happens, leading up to the climax of the novel and ultimately what happens "after".
The novel follows the life of a sixteen-year old boy, Miles Halter (nicknamed "Pudge", who has an obsession with "famous last words". His obsession leads him to transfer to a boarding school, Culver Creek, in Alabama to "seek a Great Perhaps" (the last words of Francois Rebelais, a poet) There he makes friends with the the clever and gorgeous Alaska Young, Colonel, Takumi, and Lara, who becomes his eventual-kinda-girlfriend for a while. Miles develops a close bond with these people and even almost becomes more than friends with Alaska, who already has a college-age boyfriend. Everything is fine until they get drunk one night and nothing is ever the same again.
The primary characters in the novel are Miles, Alaska, and the "Colonel", a friend of theirs and Miles's roommate. The thing that made it difficult for me to like this book was that although the characters were fairly complex and realistic, I just didn't empathize with any of them. I think that the Colonel is probably my least favorite character and Alaska would be my favorite out of all of them. Alaska was a rather interesting character because I feel like she had a lot more sides to her than the other characters. She had a back story. (a tragic one at that, and I'm a sucker for those)
The thing is, I hated all the drinking, sex, and drugs in the book. Okay, that's society today, but honestly the story would have fared a lot better without so much of it. I'm fine with bits of drinking etc. throughout novels but when it makes up about a quarter of the novel and doesn't really add to the plot or the characters, I kind of...hate it.
When *named excluded because spoiler* died I actually wasn't all that surprised. The book itself didn't have much of a plot and so obviously, when nothing major happens for a while in the book, you know someone's going to die. When they did die though I was pretty mad, because the death could've been prevented and it was pretty tragic. No one likes unnecessary character deaths.
Attention-wise, my experience with the plot and action in this book could be compared to that of taking a sled ride down a snowy hill with a small bump at the bottom. The first few chapters were highly engaging and I loved it-the story had my full attention. Sadly, after Miles met the Colonel, my attention level started to go downhill progressively faster and faster (kind of like a riding on a sled). My attention span continued to travel downhill, faster and faster, until *said character* died. I was momentarily stunned (kind of like when you're sledding and hit a little bump) but got over it in a few seconds and it continued to travel downhill.
But I have to give it to John Green that I really liked one little detail in the book: the bufriedos.
"A deep-fried bean burrito, the bufriedo proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that frying always improves a food....I sank my teeth into the crunchy shell of my first bufriedo and experienced a culinary orgasm."(p. 22)
I think Looking for Alaska is more so one of those novels that is lighter plotwise and heavier in themes. Despite the fact that the book was overloaded with drugs, drinking, and such, I liked the underlying themes; friendship, self-discovery, and loss. The themes in here were beautiful and I wish that Green had made them more prominent.