20 November 2010
Looking For Alaska
Looking for Alaska is divided into two parts. 133 pages of before and 84 pages after. In the middle is an event that dramatically changes the lives of the characters and (obviously) is very much central to the plot.
And while the plot is interesting, I found the beauty and intricacy of the writing and planning that went into the novel even more captivating. As with many great books, when you look at just the storyline alone, the book seems almost absurdly simple. It is the additional material- the character development, the dialogues, the thoughtful narration, the well-placed droppings of foreshadowing and symbolism that make the book a piece of art. John Green did an exceptional job with this in Looking for Alaksa, especially since it is his first novel (he has written a couple others since).
The story follows Miles Halter, a 16 year old boy who decides to follow in his father's footsteps and move to Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama. He makes friends with his roommate- a short but built boy named Chip (although he goes by The Colonel) and a sometimes moody and often reckless (but incredible) girl named Alaska. Alaska seems a bit old for her age, chain-smoking cigarettes, downing bottles of strawberry wine bought with a fake id, and reading melancholy books which question the meaning of life. Miles falls for her almost instantly, and the novel carries on from there, documenting the 3 student's activities, traumas, and adventures over the course of the year.
It's a short read, but a good one. It definitely appeals to a broader age range than It's Kind of a Funny Story did. I don't know if I would recommend it to anyone older than myself to read, but I enjoyed it and I consider myself to be more mature than a lot of my peers (at least the ones I see walking around campus discussing their latest wine cooler/frat boy/dance party debacle and wearing wildcats T-shirts cut to reveal as much skin as possible without showing enough to get arrested), so who knows. Maybe someone older could read it :)
Like I said before, it was mostly the writing that grabbed my attention. Margaret told me to highlight anything I particularly liked (several who had read this copy before me had done so as well), and while the whole 36 hours I was reading it I didn't have a highlighter on hand, I did find several passages that I enjoyed. I'll only share one, for the sake of time, and also because it's the one I first stumbled upon on the computer (it was just a blank page with this quote and the name of the author and the book at the end) which prompted me to ask Margaret if I could borrow her copy all those months ago.
"Just like that. From a hundred miles an hour to asleep in a nanosecond. I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane"
(sometimes I think about how writers think when they are in the process of writing a book. And while I love that last line, I can just see John Green coming up with it really early in the writing process, or maybe even before he thought of the book, and loving it and waiting for the perfect moment to slip it in. I mean, c'mon. It rhymes!)
Anyways, overall 4 stars. Maybe 4.5. I liked it a lot, but I've pretty much lost my taste for high school literature because I'm no longer in high school and I'm finding it more difficult to relate to the characters. It was the writing and some of the brilliant quotes that are spread throughout the book that really got me. I would recommend this to anyone above the age of 11 and under the age of 22, depending on reading level and maturity.
In other news, the day after I finished this I got The Time Traveler's Wife!!!
I look forward to reviewing it for you guys in a few days! Hoping your weekend has been lovely <3