Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Yes, I am doing another John Green book because this one was requested by a friend. I have previously reviewed Paper Towns.
Looking for Alaska is the second John Green book I have read. Also, Looking for Alaska was John Green’s debut novel, which means he wasn’t exactly the best writer yet. There were a few technical writing issues that bothered me, such as misplaced or lack of punctuation (this could also be because I bought my copy in England, which looks like this):
So, since I had the pleasure of reading this edition, there were more type errors than expected and as you can see, “First friend, first girl, last words,” says quite a number about the book. It’s enough to shout out to the British editor and say, “Hey, why did you put spoilers on the front cover?”
To be fair, the major event of the novel that leads to the idea of the title does not occur until a bit more than halfway through the book. But let’s talk about the layout. The layout of this book is very unique, as I have noticed with his layout in Paper Towns as well. It starts with the “Before” section and moves into the “After” section of the novel. “Before” what, though? “After” what? That is the question that drives the reader onward. The book starts some “One-hundred Thirty-eight days before,” ending with “One-hundred Thirty-eight days after.” So the layout of this novel is actually rather unique.
Now let’s take a look at the characters. Miles Halter, dubbed upon his arrival at his new boarding school as “Pudge,” is the main first person point of view character. The unique thing about Miles is that he know “Last Words.” Someone could ask him the last words of any president or writer, and he could probably slam them out without even thinking about it. On the other hand, the voice of the main character from Paper Towns is very similar to the voice of this character. When I first started reading Looking for Alaska, the two boys felt like they were almost the same character, showing that Green isn’t too skilled at differentiating voice yet. Because of the way both characters do lists, it was like they were the same person. Alaska is the name of the girl that Miles finds so fascinating. Her parents let her pick her name when she was old enough to do so, so she looked at a world map and chose “Alaska,” which is a unique characteristic. She seems to have some rough things going on with her past haunting her and the present a constant reminder of the past that she can’t seem to overcome. Chip and Takumi are the other two major characters, two boys that spend time with Alaska and bring Miles into their group. Alaska is known for pulling off pranks and always has the best prank in her reservoir.
The whole first half of the book focuses on the character development and the school life of the aforementioned characters, while the second part of the book focuses on what happens “After” a certain event. MAJOR SPOILERS TO THE REST OF THE NOVEL! PLEASE SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH TO AVOID, but the reason why this book is called Looking for Alaska, is because of what Miles, Chip, and Takumi do after tragedy strikes. Alaska is killed in an ominous car accident that is later suspected to be a suicide. While Miles and friends try to figure out why she would have killed herself or if she even did kill herself, they also devise an Alaska-worthy prank to pull on the whole school. This is how they honor her memory. The second part of the book is where more plot and action takes place, making it interesting to find out if Miles ever finds out what really happened to Alaska. Also, the prank is very funny.
So, should you read Looking for Alaska? Aside from the mess that comes with many debut novels when writers aren’t quite as skilled in their craft yet, I would say YES, this book is a relatively enjoyable read and the layout of the novel is what makes this book unique and hard to put down.