My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Move over Salinger, here comes John Green. This is a coming of age story that is truly contemporary and real, sans rose-coloured glasses. Green doesn’t skim over the concept that high-school teens know about -and often do- drugs, alcohol, and sex.
But Looking for Alaska is more than the “bad” things kids can get into. It’s about the search for self (Rabelais’ “Great Perhaps”) through being confronted with the realities of friendships, love, death, and the future.
A truly superb, daring novel.
Looking for Alaska has received many awards, including School Library Journal Best Book of the Year for 2005.
Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Miles Halter’s adolescence has been one long nonevent – no challenge, no girls, no mischief, and no real friends. Seeking what Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps,” he leaves Florida for a boarding school in Birmingham, AL. His roommate, Chip, is a dirt-poor genius scholarship student with a Napoleon complex who lives to one-up the school’s rich preppies. Chip’s best friend is Alaska Young, with whom Miles and every other male in her orbit falls instantly in love. She is literate, articulate, and beautiful, and she exhibits a reckless combination of adventurous and self-destructive behavior. She and Chip teach Miles to drink, smoke, and plot elaborate pranks. Alaska’s story unfolds in all-night bull sessions, and the depth of her unhappiness becomes obvious. Green’s dialogue is crisp, especially between Miles and Chip. His descriptions and Miles’s inner monologues can be philosophically dense, but are well within the comprehension of sensitive teen readers. The chapters of the novel are headed by a number of days “before” and “after” what readers surmise is Alaska’s suicide. These placeholders sustain the mood of possibility and foreboding, and the story moves methodically to its ambiguous climax. The language and sexual situations are aptly and realistically drawn, but sophisticated in nature. Miles’s narration is alive with sweet, self-deprecating humor, and his obvious struggle to tell the story truthfully adds to his believability. Like Phineas in John Knowles’s A Separate Peace(S & S, 1960), Green draws Alaska so lovingly, in self-loathing darkness as well as energetic light, that readers mourn her loss along with her friends. – Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library