Over the past year or so, I have experienced a great deal of grief because of my emotional attachment to fictional characters. Most of the blame for my grief can be laid at the feet of two men. The first (and worst) offender is one Steven Moffat. (I’m sure my fellow Whovians and Sherlockians can sympathize.) The second man to bring on copious feels is author John Green. I read The Fault in Our Stars in July of last year, and I was an emotional wreck for days because of that book. Well, earlier today, I finished reading Green’s Looking for Alaska. This Printz medal winner was released way back in 2005, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t get around to reading it until this week. The simple fact that Looking for Alaska is a John Green book should have let me know that I would need tissues by my side while reading, but I was woefully unprepared for how overwrought I would become because of this book. I read the latter part of the book without wearing my glasses because the tear residue was too much to see through. Yes, it’s that good.
When Miles Halter–or Pudge, as he would come to be called–began attending Culver Creek, a boarding school in Alabama, he didn’t really know what to expect, but he was hoping that his life would become something more than what he left back in Florida. Almost immediately, he gets more than he bargained for thanks to a couple of new friends that will change his life forever. The first is his roommate, the Colonel, who is some kind of math genius with a fondness for video games, cigarettes, and booze. The other friend is a girl named Alaska. This girl is quite probably the most beautiful creature Pudge has ever seen…and the most volatile. Despite the roller coaster that comes with knowing Alaska, Pudge is drawn to her and the excitement and mystery that seem to be a part of Alaska’s very being.
The first part of Pudge’s year at Culver Creek is one filled with friends, pranks, laughs, and his first experiences with smoking, drinking, sex, and breaking school rules. The second part of his year takes a turn, however, when something terrible happens that shakes the foundation of his entire world. (If the title didn’t clue you in, this horrible event revolves around Alaska.) As Pudge, the Colonel, and a couple of other friends look for answers, they all begin to question why things happen the way they do and if there’s anything that could have been done to stop tragedy from striking their lives. Will they find the answers they seek, or will they forever be looking for Alaska?
I’ll be the first to admit that the recap above…well, it kind of sucks, and it doesn’t come remotely close to conveying just how amazeballs this book is. It contains so much awesomeness that, quite frankly, it’s probably impossible for me to write a decent blog post about it. Looking for Alaska forces readers to examine some pretty deep existential questions. It alludes to great works of literature and gives us information on famous last words. It teaches us about relationships and how much they mean to us. And it shows us that some emotional damage may be too much to overcome…or it may just make us stronger for having gone through it. I cannot say enough good things about this book, and, despite the grief I’m experiencing right now, Looking for Alaska made me love John Green even more.
One word of caution. Looking for Alaska is not a book that I would recommend to readers younger than about sixteen. It contains quite a bit of cursing, and the characters are not shy about enjoying smoking, drinking, sex, and subverting authority. (I’ve taught middle school, so I’m not naive enough to believe that younger readers don’t have experience with this stuff, but I do think librarians, bloggers, teachers, and others should be careful when recommending this book to readers who may not be mature enough to handle it.)
In closing, read Looking for Alaska if you haven’t already. It’s an exquisite book that will stay with me for a long while.