Until I picked it up again, Looking for Alaska had been sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust. But let me tell you, this has been one of the most fulfilling books I’ve read. I often speed through books being left with a small impression of the story, the characters, the situation, but without much profound and deep pondering on my part, Looking for Alaska however, was something entirely different.
Looking for Alaska follows the story of Miles Halter, later nicknamed “Pudge” – an average teenager who has the unusual hobby of memorizing people’s last words. Convinced by the last words of François Rabelais, “I go to seek a great perhaps” and tired of his dull life in Florida, he decides to attend boarding school in Alabama to seek a new start. He meets his roommate and soon-to-be best friend, called the Colonel, introduces him to Alaska Young, the beautiful, moody, wild, yet emotionally unstable girl who he becomes instantly infatuated with.
They spend their time bonding over elaborate pranks against the school and “Weekday Warriors” (the rich students of the school who go home every weekend), studying, and generally breaking the rules. About halfway through the book a terrible tragedy occurs making the way Miles and all the other characters of the book completely rethink their lives while making sense of what happened, to solve the mystery left behind.
This book deserved every award it has received. It’s gorgeously written– a hilarious, impassioned, thought-provoking, deep, profound, and relatable story. The characters are often seen as the bad behaving and rebellious in the story, but despite that are incredibly fleshed out, vividly real, complex, and beautifully illustrated, making the reader through their stories confront the not so easily pondered and discussed topics of self-discovery and on the other end of the spectrum-loss. This book was almost impossible to put down, pulling you in deeper with every word, allowing you to empathize with what the characters are experiencing, making you ponder your own life and beliefs along the way.
The story is not divided by chapters, but instead marked by the amount of days leading up to the tragedy and then the days after. The first half readers will be left grinning the entire time, and at the end they will deeply moved, maybe even to the point of tears, but also left with deep and profound ideas to mull over.
Overall I was very impressed by Green’s writing. He leaves the reader with a deep impression of the characters, all having their own distinct stories and all holding their own distinct beliefs. The story itself is very deep and profound, but what made this one of the most valuable books I’ve read was the simple yet extremely inspiring and deep messages he left with me. Reading this book made me look back on some of the events that happened in my life, and made me re-analyze them in a new light. It helped reintroduce many of the things that I had locked away in my memory bank, making me rediscover and confront troubling things from the past.
Alaska had chosen as a topic of her essay in the religious studies class the students were taking, Simon Bolivar’s last words, “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” which she interprets as life-the labyrinth of suffering. Miles, through his loss and tragedy, in the end concludes the only way out of the labyrinth is through forgiveness.
Through the experiences of the characters you will learn a lot about yourself and be able to face topics you haven’t been confronted with before. As a final word of warning, there is lots of mature content, but everything in it serves to define character, give voice, and develop profound themes in the story. Indeed, this award-winning book is even on many high school reading lists and can help to open the topics of loss, self discovery, and friendship.
Sophia U., 11th grade