Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
Pages: 231 pg
Published Date: December 28th 2006
Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same.
“When I look at my room, I see a girl who loves books.”
So, I finally read Looking for Alaska!
This is one of the books that have bugged me for long, because I've heard a lot and stumble a lot into it almost everywhere: tweets, tumblr posts, book blogs, and so on. Some friends said they didn't like it, but some other people said the book is brilliant. There was of course an expectation from my ownself to also find Looking for Alaska as enjoyable & as brilliant as any other people have said, until it becomes a problem when I didn't.
In short, no, I can't say that I like it in the same level as I like The Fault in Our Stars (the first book of John Green I read). For me, these two books are totally in a different level. I adore Miles and his desire to seek a Great Perhaps (whatever it is), and I found his gang of friends on Culver Creek (which consists of Miles himself/Pudge, Chip/Colonel, Takumi, and Alaska) to be super cool and totally fun to hang out together. There's a lot of crazy pranks and hilarious moments on almost every part of the book and that made me LOL a lot. They're silly, crazy and freaky, but I couldn't relate or sympathize with their needs to booze a lot of times. Sure, these teenagers are flawed and broken, and maybe it's just my dislike toward such a messed up lifestyle, but their habits and constant needs of alcohol, sex, and smoking (graphically described, too) was kinda a turn-off.
The Colonel led all the cheers.
"Cornbread!" He screamed.
"CHICKEN!" The crowd responded.
And then, all together: "WE GOT HIGHER SATs."
"Hip Hip Hip Hooray!" The Colonel cried.
"YOU'LL BE WORKIN' FOR US SOMEDAY!"
But there's this aspect of Looking for Alaska that's more interesting for me to tackle on, and it was what kept me going. In the book, John Green did not only write about this life of 4 teenagers in a boarding school doing their crazy stuff, but he also brings the subject of life, death, mortality, suffering, grief and many other heavy things. Miles' favorite class was World Religions taught by Mr Hyde, which I also favorited through the book. To be honest, as a teenager myself, it's been a long time (since around 8th grade, I guess) that I started asking my ownself about these topics. What happened after we die? What does it feels like to be dead? Does an afterlife really exist, or is it just made up by human? I mean, no one who've experienced it ever come back and tell us about it, right. How could we be so sure heaven and hell are really there? For final, the students in Mr Hyde's class was asked to write about 'what the most important question facing people is', and Alaska's question was: "How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?"
I may not really understand well the meaning of that question (“It's not life or death, the labyrinth. Suffering. Doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That's the problem. Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of the labyrinth of suffering?”), but a lot of aspects on Looking for Alaska are revolved around it. Alaska herself, in the book, was described as someone so broken, with a harsh experience as a kid (having to watch her own mother dead from brain aneurysm), unexpectable, totally screwed up and hard to understand but also crazy, in a good, awesome kind of way. Sometimes I wanted to appreciate her but sometimes I also wanted to kick some consciousness into her. Also, as I read the book, I kept wondering about the 'forty four days before, forty three days before'... Before what, exactly? I was asking. Then I got into that part and everything else started to make a whole lot of sense, including why the book was titled Looking for Alaska. It was surely a page-turner, the book, and the mystery revolved around that event was partially what made me survived reading until the end of story. Not to mention that the book was so quotable, almost every line is worth quoting for. I love, love quotable books!
"Although no one will ever accuse me of being much of a science student, one thing I learned from science class is that enegy is never created and never destroyed. When adults say, 'Teenagers think they're invincible' with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations."
So I'd like to say that eventhough I didn't enjoy Looking for Alaska as much as I hoped to, the book was still worth it. I mean, it's John Green, so of course it will be worth it, right? :p The characters are interesting, the funny moments are hilarious, the turn of events are unexpectable. I love how John could understand so much about our life as teenagers and always successful in bringing out interesting & heavy topics without 'lecturing' us about it. I would still recommend it to anyone who have read The Fault in Our Stars but haven't read this one, and those of you who love YA in general.
Miles ended the book by writing his 'way out of the labyrinth' (Miles thought the only way to get out of it is to forgive), but to me, my version of the answer to Alaska's question would be:
"I'm not sure we could really get out of the labyrinth of suffering. I mean, we're not on the outside looking in, we're actually in the middle of it trying to figure it's way out. How could we be sure when we're out of it anyway? Don't you think life is just another turn of suffering over and over again? We suffer to make friends, we suffer to make our parents proud, we suffer to meet up society's standards, we suffer to find happiness, we suffer to reach the dreams and live the life we want. The easiest way, for me, would be just to enjoy it. Of couse it feels hard and painful, and sometimes unfair, but by the time we enjoy it and try to live with it (instead of pretending we don't), it won't feel like suffering anymore. And soon you'll find out that not a long time after, you'll be at the end of the labyrinth already. No need to do it straight and fast, just like you did, Alaska, the way out will eventually be there anyway, because time always goes on and make today's suffering into yesterday's."
So, have you read the book? What did you think of it? Do you think Miles' ability to memorize people's last words wonderful? Because I do. My favorite was the last words of Thomas Alva Edison.
By the way, I'm going to read other books of John Green soon. Help me! Which one do you think I should read first, An Abundance of Katherines or Paper Towns? :)
About the Author:
John Green! Oh, who wouldn't know John Green anyway? From wikipedia: John Michael Green (born August 24, 1977) is an American writer of young adult fiction and a and educator. He won the 2006 Printz Award for his debut novel, Looking for Alaska, and reached number one on a New York Times Best Seller list with The Fault in Our Stars in January 2012. His books included Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Will Grayson Will Grayson (written with David Levithan), Let It Snow, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars (filming of this book will be started next month!). He lives in Indiana with his wife Sarah, his children Henry and Alice, and a dog named Willy.
Read what other people think of Looking for Alaska:
Jzhunagev from Dark Chest of Wonders
Melissa from Book Nerd Reviews
Jessica Lee from A Midsummer Night's Read