Monday, 3 February 2014

Looking for Alaska by John Green (Spoiler Warning)

Book Description from Amazon
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 (Francois 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. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.

**Spoiler Alert**
This is one of those books where reviewing it is impossible without revealing spoilers. In this case the spoiler would ruin the entire story. So if you do not want the entire book ruined, please do not continue reading this review. I hate writing reviews with spoilers but I can't figure out a way around it this time.

First, what I didn't like. Now, I've never lived at a boarding school but these high school kids seemed to behave more like college kids to me. There was just so much drinking and smoking! Yes I was in high school once and I suppose I actually did drink about as often as these kids (never smoked) but maybe because I'm a mother, there was just something off putting about all that drinking and smoking.

I wish I had read Looking for Alaska before I read The Fault in Our Stars because since I knew what kind of writer John Greene was, I saw it coming. Each chapter is a countdown to something big. Granted this made me want to keep reading. I wanted to know what was going to happen on the day Pudge was counting down to.

Okay, I'm going to give you one more chance to stop reading this review. I'm going to start revealing spoilers!

To be honest, I didn't really like Pudge all that much. He treated Lara really badly because he was in love with Alaska. Oh that cliche teenager issue of unrequited love. Actually now that I think about it, I didn't really care too much about any of the characters. Don't get me wrong, I liked most of them but I didn't care deeply about what happened to them. The entire book is a mystery and I enjoyed it so much because I wanted to solve the mystery. (Which makes me wonder if I really should start reading some mysteries, but I digress.) 

I really should say "mysteries." First, I wanted to know what Pudge was counting down to. Once I learned what the life altering event was, I wanted to know why it happened along with Pudge and the gang.

But like I said earlier I kind of knew what was going to happen from the very beginning. I just knew Alaska...and here's the big, huge spoiler....was going to die. I didn't know how and it honestly didn't happen the way I expected it to. Alaska dies in what appears drinking and driving accident that may or may not have been a suicide. 

Pudge and her other friends spend the rest of the novel struggling with their feelings of guilt because they knew she was drunk and let her drive anyway as well as investigate like Mystery Inc. (Scooby Doo and the gang) into clues about whether Alaska killed herself. 

One scene that I found completely and utterly unbelievable was how the students at the boarding school was informed of Alaska's death. No school headmaster in his right mind would tell Alaska's closest friends during a school assembly like that. 

I'm going to get personal here. Real personal. 

Reading this book was actually very hard for me because my husband died 7 years ago in a head on crash a week after admitting he was suicidal. However it's because I've experienced this that I know what John Greene wrote was realistic. In fact, he nailed it. 

I remember pouring over clues trying to figure out if my husband's crash was accidental. I called the truck driver's work to speak with him and asked to meet with him about the crash. I met with him and asked almost the same questions the kids as the police officer. I spoke with the coroner's office and asked then a dozen question. And I waited the excruciating weeks for the police report because they did a toxicology test on the truck driver. My one clue that is wasn't a suicide was that my husband braked before the impact.

What I liked about the book is that Pudge and gang never come to a definitave answer. Instead they learn that they have to let go of trying to answer all the questions and focus on remaining close friends. They do this by bonding together to plan a hilarious and epic school prank involving a stripper at a school assembly. I loved that it was humor that helps all of them heal. I felt like all the loose ends were tied up, even if the mystery was not totally resolved.

Now here's what I hated about the ending. For being a group of kids as close as they were, they didn't seem too broken up about leaving boarding school and each other to go back home for the summer. I thought the way they were so nonchalant about it was completely unrealistic.

Another thing I loved about this book was all the "last words" quotes. Last words as in the last thing famous people said before dying. I found this absolutely fascinating and wish John Green had included more than he did. It made me want to start collecting my own "last words."

I also loved how philosophical the book was. Unlike The Fault in Our Stars the way the teenagers discussed philosophical matters was a lot more realistic. It didn't bog down the story or ever seem pretentious like it sometimes did in The Fault in Our Stars. 

Also one issue I think Greene seems to have with both of these books is that he doesn't know how to realistically write about teenage love, dating, and relationships. He also always makes his teenage characters far too mature. They are always deep and even wise beyond their years. Just once I'd like to see someone that reflects current teen culture.

Considering I plan on reading all of his books I probably should look for a John Green reading challenge as this point.

My rating is a solid Photobucket 
The book is being made into a movie. I have to admit I think this book would make a far better movie than The Fault in Our Stars.

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