Book review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Pages: 221

Published by: Speak

I’m trying to get into the routine of regularly writing reviews on all the books I read (and I read a lot), so now I’m going to be reviewing a book by one of my favourite modern authors, Looking For Alaska by the brilliant John Green.

His début novel, Looking for Alaska isn’t my favourite John Green book, but I still love it. It’s a great example of why he’s such a good storyteller, it has the diverse and layered characters, the mystery and intrigue and the masterfully woven story pacing that he is so adept at creating.

The story revolves around the protagonist Miles Halter, who leaves his home and his parents in Florida to join Culver Creek High School (a boarding school) in Alabama. Adventures ensue, and Miles meets some pretty colourful characters, and perhaps the most colourful of all of these is Alaska.

A close knit friendship group is formed between Miles, The Colonel, Takumi and Alaska, and they get up to all sorts of daring antics, whilst also facing the pressures of school, life and growing up. As the story unfolds, Miles starts to develop more than friendly feelings for Alaska, who I think enjoys the attention and almost leads him on.

But not only does this novel follow their school life, it also delves into their pasts, in particular Alaska’s. An impulsive girl with a turbulent past and back-story, Alaska is more troubled than her loud, almost brash personality might initially signify.

There is a lot of character development throughout the story, and I personally think the relationships between all of the characters are really special. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Miles (affectionately named Pudge on account of his being so skinny) and ‘The Colonel’, who seem like unlikely friends at first, but seem to understand each other on a scarily deep level.

“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.” 

The characters all have their own little quirks which make them fun to read about, for example, Pudge is obsessed with learning peoples last words ‘you can learn a lot about how they lived by their last words’, and The Colonel can list all of the countries in the world in alphabetical order.

Although there are a lot of funny and comedy relief moments in the story, the underlying tone of the story is actually quite dark and disturbing. When you discover the turmoil Alaska has in her past and what she is going through, it does make you warm to her a little more, although on the whole I find her pretty annoying and unlike-able, and almost a little bit of a cliché “I’m so mysterious” character.

The crescendo of the story comes when Alaska goes ‘missing’ briefly, after spending the evening drinking cheap wine and kissing Miles, although she swears she ‘loves her boyfriend’. The Colonel and Miles let a very distraught and incomprehensible Alaska leave, even though they know she is drunk. They let her get in her car and ride away, which is something that greatly disturbs and haunts them afterwards, when it turns out that she dies in a car accident that very night.

Speculations are thrown around as to whether she was just too drunk and couldn’t swerve out of the way of the truck she hit, but Pudge and The Colonel who knew her well think otherwise. What ensues is a search for clues on whether she killed herself, a melancholy girl used to tragedy and with a dramatic flair, mixed with the entire trauma in her life, this isn’t too hard to believe.

The answer is never resolved, and they are still looking for answers on ‘who Alaska really was’ at the end of the novel, which I think is the perfect way to end it. I love it when a story leaves you thinking after and allows you to make your own interpretations on how it ends.

I enjoyed this book, although sometimes it was a bit too deep and pretentious for my liking. Still, I love John Green so I’d give this book a 7/10!

What is your favourite John Green book? Let me know in the comments below.

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