Book Review: Looking for Alaska

I’ve decided to review ‘Looking for Alaska’ by John Green for my first book review on this blog as I first read it when I was around 14 and was the first book that I truly claimed as my ‘favourite‘. I will try my very best not include any spoilers within this post but just in case I do as a heads up I will include a SPOILER ALERT right here. 

‘Looking for Alaska’ is John Green’s first published novel, which came out in March 2005. It follows the narrative of Miles Halter, nicknamed “Pudge” who moves to a boarding school where he meets Takumi, Chip and a girl named Alaska. The main body of the novel follows the teens in their lives at the boarding school, as they carry out pranks, become closer and begin to fall in love. However, it is very close to the end of the novel when the climax of the story comes about and it is extremely, extremely heartbreaking.

The thing I loved most about this novel, and why it is currently #1 on my list of favourite books, is the build-up and mystery that comes before the climax – this book does not contain chapters, or parts, or anything that separates the different segments of the story in a traditional way, rather at the beginning of each ‘segment’ there is a heading that reads ‘xxx days before’, ‘xxx’ being replaced by numbers depending on how far in to the book you are. As a first time reader of the novel I didn’t understand what this meant as it was a completely different style of segment separation than anything I had ever come across before but as I read further into the book I began to understand that this was leading up to something. The rest of the novel follows no real storyline, it’s just a group of teenagers hanging out, falling in love, and doing the things that teenagers do. You don’t get to engrossed in the plot of the novel because, at this point, I didn’t find that there was one – what you really fall in love with is the characters, their personalities, flaws, and how they care so deeply for one another. And that’s why the climax of the novel hits so hard: it’s so unexpected. Nothing I had read so far in the novel had given me any sort of idea or clue that this is what the big reveal was. 

After the climax hits and the novel continues all the way to end, I felt a connection with the character of Miles, or Pudge, I too had fallen in love with the character of Alaska, just as he had and his struggle to attempt to explain to himself or find some kind of reasoning for why this had happened was exactly how I felt. It was like John Green, himself, knew just how his readers would feel about Alaska and how hard it would hit them and threw all of that emotion into Pudge. 

The sense of mystery in this novel continues even after the end, even after the ‘xxx days before’ has finished because the reader never truly gets an explanation. I think that we are left to make up our own minds about what truly happened and that’s what will make this book so different for everyone who reads it because everyone will have a different story or a different opinion about what they believe happened. Personally, I think about this story a lot and I still haven’t made up my mind about why what happened did and I’m not sure if I ever will but it keeps me thinking and I love that about a novel.

“I didn’t know whether to trust Alaska, and I’d certainly had enough of her unpredictability—cold one day, sweet the next; irresistibly flirty one moment, resistibly obnoxious the next. I preferred the Colonel: At least when he was cranky, he had a reason.”

Please be aware that if you are going to read this novel it does contain strong language, sexual scenes, drinking and other things of a more mature nature.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? And what do you believe truly happened at the end?

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