Looking for Alaska by John Green
Who doesn’t love John Green? My first John Green experience was An Abundance of Katherines, which I read a few years ago. I didn’t read another of his books until I picked up Paper Towns for Traf Reads last summer. I was reminded of how much I liked his style, and went on to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson (which he co-wrote with David Leviathan) and, this spring, The Fault in Our Stars. I would have loved these books anyway, but having after Traf’s Skype experience with John Green this year (Thanks, Ms. G!) I love them even more because I feel like I know more about the person who wrote them, if that makes any sense.
However, I had yet to read Looking for Alaska, Green’s first and perhaps most well-known book. That finally changed a few weeks ago. Now, the problem with reading a book that’s been out for a while is that you hear a lot about what other people think, and that sometimes builds a book up too much. I was afraid that Looking for Alaska would be a let-down.
In true John Green style, the characters in LFA are real teenagers with flaws. They’re not total goody-goodies, but they’re not so “badass” (can I say that?) that you think they’re over the top, or don’t like them, or want bad things to happen to them. You like Miles and Alaska and The Colonel and all of their other friends. The adult characters also seem real, but they don’t get in the way of a good story.
LFA is set in a boarding school that is apparently a lot like the one that Green went to as a teenager, so I won’t make my usual comments about the boarding school being unrealistic here; I trust Green’s memory. As with many books set in similar schools, the setting is necessary for the plot to unfold as it does.
The plot is clearly delineated here as “Before” and “After”, with the days being counted down. What the event in the middle of “Before” and “After” is is obviously a surprise (unless you’re like me and peek ahead. Don’t be like me.). The three main characters and a few of their friends form a close-knit friendship that sees them doing fun stuff and dumb stuff, but taking care of each other in the absence of their families. It is this “taking care of each other” that provides us with the main conflict.
I think I’ve laughed in every John Green book I’ve read, and probably cried in half of them. (There’s one that I don’t recommend reading on public transit. Ask me if you want to know which one. Actually, there are two. ) Green is so good at making you feel when you read his books, and I love him for it. Looking for Alaska made me feel, and I don’t know what more you can ask for from a book.