on 23 March 2013
Before I started Looking For Alaska I had high expectations of the book simply because of the large proportion of people who seem to love John Green. Personally, I had not read a John Green book before but I didn't want to start reading his books by jumping into The Fault In Our Stars and so I went to this book instead. Fortunately, I am happy to report that my expectations were met and that this book was incredibly good and one that I am incredibly glad that I took the chance to read. It is not a book that is all happy on life, but rather one that questions life and death and everything in between. It was a book that I loved reading and I feel that it was probably the perfect introduction to John Green.
Moving to a new school is never easy, even if you have decided to make the move yourself, and this book does a good job of reflecting on all the different things that occur in a new enviroment. It helped to make the book exciting and interesting, as we're getting to know Miles' friends at the same time as he is. But it's the overall plot of this book that really keeps the reader going. As mentioned in the summary above, the chapters are seperated by "days before", and "days after". It's never mentioned what it is referring to in the before section but you can't help but feel this imminent dread. You want to embrace Miles' new friendships, his new school life and all of the fun adventures he goes on, but there's always this niggling in the back of your mind about what is actually going to happen, what is going to change? I found this to be a really unique and interesting way of setting out the chapters and it really helped to make this story that much more entertaining and enjoyable.
Miles was a character that was instantly admired. He was smart, risk-taking, but also incredibly cautious at times, always with a niggling feeling at the back of his mind. It was great to get to know more about him, to feel the emotions he was truly dealing with through his narrative voice, it was truly possible to know and understand everything that he was going through. I liked that about the book, and it helped to make me really like Miles that much more as well. I wanted things to be okay for him, wanted him to have the fresh start that he deserved. Alaska, on the other hand, wasn't a character I particularly liked, I'm not sure what it was about her exactly but she just never seemed like a likable character to me. I could see why Miles liked her, befriended her and wanted to spend time with her but I just couldn't personally do it myself. Yet, I still felt emotionally attached to her and that, I feel, is in large part due to the immaculate writing of John Green.
This book was John Green's debut novel and it seems to me like a brilliant way to enter into the world of publishing. His writing is easy to get to grips with, and has a way of really grabbing the reader by the shoulders and forcing their arms to keep turning the page. It is interesting and intense, he has a lovely way of capturing human emotions in a way that makes all of his characters feel realistic and alive. You could, quite easily, picture these people walking up and down the street. But it's more than that. John Green has a way of questioning things with his writing and his stories, a way of opening things up that you may have never thought of before. For example, at the end of this book, there are many unanswered questions for Miles and yet he knows that, that is simply the way life is sometimes, which in turn reflects back to the reader who is also left with unanswered questions, ones that without probing John Green himself, will never know the answer to either. I found this to be one of the best parts of Looking for Alaska, John Green simply tells it as it is.
Looking For Alaska is a contemporary novel that really gets to work from the get go. It centers around an interesting character with an odd fascination for last words who gets to go to a new school and meet some new friends. It is interesting, entertaining, and compelling, and a book that I am incredibly glad that I got to read. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary YA novels, novels with male protagonists and novels that have a way of questioning the very ways of life. There is so much going on in this novel and I wish I could mention it all but I feel that this is one of those books that you really need to experience for yourself. So, stop reading this review now and go and pick up this book and read it. Chances are it'll move you in many different ways and make you really think about the world without letting you realise that, that is exactly what you are doing. This is a book that I would easily read again and again.
on 10 June 2014
Very much recommended if you don't mind being the grown man on the train, alone, sobbing quietly in to his kindle.
on 2 February 2008
I was casually scanning the books in the Young Adult section at Borders, when a guy who worked there came up to me and reccomended this book. I was a little skeptical - he was about 25 and not really the kind I'd imagine reading books aimed at teens, but the way he talked about this book intrigued me entirely. So, as there wasn't anything else interesting me in the slightest, I though - what the hell? Plus, he said that if I didn't like it I could come back and he'd refund me.
I'm so unbelievably glad that I bought it. Green captures the way a teenagers mind works perfectly - and the way he portrayed Miles being hopelessly in love was perfect. Miles is a young boy who joins Culver Creek boarding school in Alabama and befriends Chip 'Colonel' Martin; a sarcastic, trailor-bred intellectual who teaches Miles the way things work.
Immediately, I was curious with the he set out the chapters; divided into two halves - before and after a defining moment in Mile's life. It wasn't soppy or unrealistic - it's a story about a normal boy falling in love with a girl who - in his eyes - is perfect. The main girl Alaska is an endearing character - the author makes you want to know more about her; she's the epitomy of 'cool', but her underlying story gives her more depth, and you realise that there's a lot more to her and that her smile is a mask for her past. Filled with drinking, pranks and cigarettes - Looking For Alaska gives an insight into what teenage life is all about, and the harrowing reality of how precious life is.
on 30 April 2003
Looking for Alaska is Jenkins account of 18 months living in Alaska. The chapters are imaginatively titled "Bingo Anger", "Fly Through That Hole"... The amazing stories he collects along the way from die-hard Alaskans leaving no stone unturned in his search for a true understanding of the people, wildlife and climate of this, the largest of all United States. From Whaling with Eskimos off Barrow to a coffee shop in Seward, this book describes every character with equal importance. Looking For Alaska is a clever blend of diary, history, and at times leaves the reader questioning their own perspective on life. The flow is occasionally halted by the odd Americanism ("dove" instead of dived is used a lot)and there isn't quite the descriptive wordpower of Bill Bryson, but overall this is a book I could turn to time and time again... if only to dream of the day I might go to Alaska and witness it all for myself.
on 13 November 2014
About 5 years ago an ex of mine recommended me this book. Long story short, I didn't read it while we were together or after. The first John Green book I had the pleasure of reading was The Fault in Our Stars, what a beautiful book. And while my laptop was down I read An Abundance of Katherines, which yet again was another beautiful book. This book has been on my to read list for a long time and I'm so thankful I've finally read it.
This book was perfect. From start to finish, I know I seem to say that about all his books (so far) but that's just how I feel. And I've been sitting here for an hour struggling to put how I felt about this book into terms. Not because it was a bad book but because I'm still in awe of it.
I love all the characters. They are such a bunch of lovable misfitsthat they become relatable. From Miles 'Pudge', the skinny shy boy who's obsessed with peoples last words to Chip "The Colonel" Martin (his roommate) a prankster who likes to memorize countries/capitals/states, Takumi a surprisingly gifted MC , Lara a Romanian immigrant who is also Pudges girlfriend for all of a day, and then there's Alaska Young. A wild, self-destructive, beautiful girl who Pudge instantly becomes infatuated with.
This books is set up in two different section. Before and after. In the before section Miles leaves his home and old school behind to attend a boarding school, one his father attended as a kid, and where he hopes to find his Great Perhaps. The school itself is set into a great dived too. The Weekday Warriors, rich kids who live in a well off area and go come on the weekends, hence the name. And the normal people, who are there on scholarship. After a run in with the weekday warriors on his first day, Pudge along with the help of his new friends wage war. While planning and scheming Alaska and Pudge grow closer and they begin to open up. Pudge finding out the reasons behind Alaska's self destructive personality, is because when she was 8 her mother died very suddenly of a brain aneurysm. Because she panicked and didn't call 911 she caries around the guilt, feeling responsible, even though there wasn't much she would have been able to do.
To tell you about the After section would be to spoil the book for you. I for one never saw it coming. Being that I don't know how much people read into my blogs (if they do) I'm going to stop. Basically this book is about self discovery, grief, pain, sexual exploring, anger, trust, self doubt and living in the moment.
Before I read anything by John Green it was apparent that he was very loved by readers old and young. Before I didn't understand it, but now I do. He's an amazing writer with the ability to make every character he puts to paper relatable in some shape or another. He never disappointing me and I cant wait to read more.
on 24 December 2012
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
3 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback (also available on kindle, ebook and audiobook, buy yours here)
I knew I wasn't going to like Looking for Alaska before I bought it. There has been so much hype about Alaska and John Green in general and I rarely agree with the masses. BUT I cannot ignore those masses either, I can't be a credible reviewer if I only read those books that appeal to me, and if I stuck with my favourite genres I'd of missed some amazing works.
So Alaska........the plot is quite simple really, set in two parts, BEFORE and AFTER an event that changes the characters worlds. Floridian Miles has decided to attending boarding school in Alabama, he is looking for a 'Great Perhaps' (ala 'I go to seek a Great Perhaps' by Francois Rabelais) and he's never going to get that at his present school, friendless, alone and pretty miserable. So off to boarding school he goes. Miles is soon christened 'Pudge' (on account of him being so skinny, ironic, huh?) by his room mate the Colonel and is introduced to the heroine of the story, and its name sake - Alaska. Miles soon becomes besotted with the vibrant, bubbly, unpredictable Alaska, even though she tells us frequently that she's sooooo in love with her boyfriend.
The story progresses as the kids become close friends, through first smokes, first drinks and first girl friends. Then the EVENT happens (no I'm not going to tell you what it is, although its fairly obvious) and the group dynamic is changed forever. The latter half of the book follows the friends as they deal with the EVENT and the aftermath, as well as how their lives change because of it.
As I said, I knew I wasn't going to like Alaska, and I didn't - the book or the girl (more on the girl later). The book wasn't bad, its was just far too self indulgent for me. Miles doesn't read like a teenage boy, he reads like a man writing as a teenage boy. The book just tries to be far too clever for me, it reminds me of a teenage version of something Scarlett Thomas would write - so concerned with being clever, though provoking and philosophical that it fails at all three. The whole labyrinth and great perhaps links through out the book are annoying at best, they are not clues to a deeper meaning in life, they are just Green trying to be clever.
There is also the issues with the quality of writing, there is no doubt Green is a great writer, although I think his work (based upon Alaska) would be best aimed at an older age group that want to reflect upon their lives and their meaning. However there were numerous things that annoyed me about his writing style firstly was the lazy list writing ie: 1)it was blue 2) its was black 3) it was green 4)it was purple 5) it was pink (ok not a quote from the book but you get the idea). The lists were everywhere in the book, and rather annoying. Then we have Miles' apparent obsession with the layers of clothes between him an a girl. Granted I've never been a teenage boy but I somehow doubt they all obsessively count '4 layers between us now' more likely they focus on whats UNDER the layers, once in the book would have been acceptable but Miles talks about the layers over and over and over again, it felt like padding for the book, and nothing more.
On to Alaska, I understand that she's not meant to be perfect, I understand that she's not always meant to be understandable, but she's also not likeable, the reader (or me at least) doesn't bond with her, doesn't get Miles' bond with her really, and is generally underwhelmed by the apparent bombshell that is Alaska. I think in trying to make her messed-up and struggling with issues, Green has lost the essence of the girl he was trying to write about. Miles is a little more likeable, he's more normal, trying to fit in, struggling with being a teenager with out the over-the-top dramatics that Alaska uses. His circle of friends are well written, the reader gets to know them all well and cares about what happens to them (I particularly like Chip's mum and the Eagle).
The book for me was an ok read, I gave it 3 stars as I can see why so many people love it, but for me it was just trying too hard. I suspect it'll just be a case of me not liking Green's writing style, I wouldn't say no to a new book by him, but I doubt I'd be pre-ordeirng it either.
on 20 November 2011
Okay, so I heard so much about this book and how it is so similar to "Paper Towns", and many reviewers even rated down "Paper Towns" because they felt like John Green wrote a novel based on the same storyline with minor differences.
Well, I am here to completely disagree.
For starters, yes, this is a book about teenagers and the riot of emotions that one goes through as a teenager, especially when you are living away from your family. And yes, John Green once again portrays those emotions incredibly well, and the depth in his novels - that are aimed at young adults - always astounds me and impresses me as these are novels that can be read by adults as well. However, do I think the storyline is similar? No, not at all.
Yes, Margo - from "Paper Towns" - and Alaska - from "Looking for Alaska" - have similar personality traits in that they are both rebellious, impulsive and independent girls who like to break the rules and break out of the norm. Yes, there's a teenage boy who is in love with these girls in both stories, and yes, there's the regular group of friends who are always hanging out together. But there, the similarities end. So many novels are based on those three main aspects.
I found "Looking for Alaska" to be a lot more serious than "Paper Towns", the theme of the story is so much deeper and so much more grim than any of Green's other novels. Green taps into teens who are self-destructive. He speaks of suicide, life, death - and more importantly - life AFTER death. How teenagers cope with all these emotions of loneliness, despair, depression, independence, rebellion, happiness, love, hate and so much more, and which path they choose to take.
"Looking for Alaska" is an important book for teenagers, but not necessarily a great book. I found myself laughing so much more when reading "Paper Towns", I found myself liking the characters in "Paper Towns" more, and I found myself highlighting passages that I wanted to go through again more in "Paper Towns".
I did like "Looking for Alaska", and I loved the idea of 'last words' - it is very intriguing to know what people's last words are. I think what stopped me from really falling in love with this book is that I just honestly did not like Alaska as a character. At all. And there were many times when I didn't like Miles 'Pudge' either. I found Alaska to be obnoxious, extremely selfish, self-involved, and arrogant. I felt like she was holding all her friends back from living life, because she was stuck in her own self-destructive doom and she craved the love and attention of her friends. Now obviously, Green explains why she is the way she is through a horrible incident in her past, and although it makes me dislike her less, it doesn't stop me from completely disliking her.
Pudge's obsession with Alaska, on the other hand, was irritating, especially that he had not really known her all that well, or that long. The way he seemed to feel like he had more right to be upset or angry than others who have known her and have been friends with her for much longer was just annoying. And when Alaska snaps at him and he goes to the Colonel and says things like, "Alaska was mean to me last night", makes me think of him as silly and immature.
Sure, moments like these probably remind readers of "Paper Towns" when Q was obsessed with Margo's disappearance, and how he was in love with her even though they barely spoke, and how she was always craving attention with her random vanishing acts that eventually pushed her own parents away. They remind me of it as well, but I suppose the finality of Alaska's actions and reactions seemed a lot more careless - and therefore, irresponsible and infuriating. When the Colonel and Pudge both express fleeting moments of positivity that she isn't around, I get it. When they express moments of anger and annoyance with her and how self-involved and tiresome she was to deal with, I get it as well. When the Colonel states at one point how he always felt like he needed to take care of her, like she was a child, I agreed with him, and I understood where he was coming from. And therein lies the difference between the characters in "Paper Towns" and "Looking for Alaska" I suppose. To me anyway. I'm sure many readers prefer this book, but this is just my take on the story.
For those reasons, I rated this book one star less than "Paper Towns". I did rate it relatively high however, because it brought out such a strong reaction in me, and that is always a sign that it's a good book. And because I believe the themes discussed are very important and very enlightening. In fact, I wish I was with Pudge and could take Mr. Hyde's class, because that to me was the most interesting part of the book, and it held the most important - and interesting - elements.
That and the looking for Alaska part. I was just as curious as Pudge, the Colonel, Takumi and Lara, to find out what happened and try and understand it.
Miles Halter is the type of high-schooler who always faded into the background at his public school in Florida. He had few friends, by choice as much as by fate, and wanted only to study his passion--memorizing the last words of people who had died. After reading the dying words of poet Francois Rabelais, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps", Miles is convinced that there's more to life than what he's so far experienced.
So Miles sets off to spend his junior and senior years at Culver Creek, a private boarding school in Alabama. There he gains his first nickname "Pudge" (a misnomer, by far, since Miles is quite skinny); meets his first love, Alaska Young; has his first sexual encounter with a Romanian girl named Lara; and gains two great male friends, Chip "The Colonel" Martin and Takumi Hikohito. He also experiences the joys and sickness of getting drunk, the strangeness of smoking cigarettes, and the unadulterated pleasure of playing pranks.
Pudge's new group of friends have their own quirks--The Colonel memorizes countries, capitals, and populations; Alaska collects books for her Life's Library that she hasn't yet read; Takumi relishes being The Fox. They all work together to irritate their teachers, avoid confrontation with The Eagle, the school's dean, and pull off pranks against the rich Weekday Warriors that are the popular clique at Culver Creek.
But LOOKING FOR ALASKA is mostly the story of growing up, of falling in love, of dealing with loss, and getting through life as best that you can. With wonderful dialogue, fascinating prose, and characters that are so real you'll think you know them personally, this is a book well worth reading. Not just is it the story of a group of teenagers looking to find their way out of the labryinth of loss, or just the story of finding our Great Perhpas, LOOKING FOR ALASKA is about living the best life that can be led.
I loved this story, and highly recommend it. Once you do, you'll realize it's no surprise that it won the Teen's Top 10 Awards--in fact, it probably deserves more.
Reviewed by: Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius"
on 22 April 2011
This book is truly amazing for a first novel. I bought this, in all honesty because it wasn't too expensive but once it arrived yesterday morning, I couldn't put it down and I finished it this afternoon.
Very intriguing and moving an I just wish I could have been at Culver Creek to see the final prank in person. John Green has released a brilliant book and I can't wait to read more of his material.
Alaska, Pudge, The Colonel, Takumi and Lara are all well devised characters that only make the book all the more fascinating and heart-warming.
Since at least 1692 A.D. explorers, pioneers and travelers, and before that Native Americans, have carved their initials and thoughts on Inscription Rock in New Mexico's high desert, in what is now El Morro National Monument. Well, it seems to me that with over 900 very personal reviews in place this book site is like the YA reading version of Inscription Rock, with each reviewer recording how this book spoke to him or her.
So, read and enjoy this, or any, John Green. Maybe it will be your transition book, your inspiration to find more authors who touch and connect with you. (Some of us are old enough to think back to when we found the same excitement in Bellow or Roth or Borges or Donleavy or Barthelme or whomever.) Then skim through these reviews - take heart from all of the readers who have been moved to inscribe their reactions to the artistry and truth of the book, and maybe leave a passing note of your own for the next traveler.