The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.Looking for Alaska by John Green
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy 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. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.
The first John Green book I ever read was “The Fault in Our Stars”. And yes, I read it because of all the hype. But I ended up really loving the story. Then last year, I picked up “Turtles all the way down” and it became one of my favorites of all time. So in the beginning of this year I decided it was time for me to read another one of his books, and what better choice than his debut novel “Looking for Alaska”.
Miles Halter or “Pudge” as he is referred to throughout the book, is the protagonist, and the book starts with Miles leaving Florida to attend a school in Alabama. He’s introduced by his roommates to beautiful, mysterious and emotionally confused Alaska Young, and the story progresses, mostly centered around Miles’ life at Culver Creek and his growing attachment to Alaska. There are also essential parts of teenage life thrown in casually and skillfully to the story, such as pranks, bets and disastrous parties.
Early in the novel, we learn that Miles likes to memorize ‘last words’. At first, it seemed like this was just another quirky character trait but soon, these words came to mean much more. For example, Miles talks about the words of Francois Rabelais before he leaves for boarding school, hoping to find a ‘Great Perhaps’ before he dies. We are frequently reminded of these words as Miles trudges through the highs and lows of teenage life, searching for meaning.
Green really has a way with his characters. I could relate to the story because the characters felt real. They are real teenagers, living through the high school drama and trying to understand all the complicated feelings they experience all at once. The beauty of the book is that it doesn’t hide anything. It showcases what young love and growing up really are in a brutal and honest light. How the characters communicate, their relationships with each other, their pasts and all their doubts.
It is also an extremely gripping book. That’s because of the way it is structured – divided into two main parts. The first section was named Before and the second section, After. As a reader, there was nothing I wanted to know more than what would happen as the story moved into its second part. There were no chapters, in a traditional sense. Instead, the novel began ‘One Hundred and Thirty-six Days Before’ and gradually counted down to the second part, finishing ‘One Hundred and Thirty-six Days After’. This unique structure created incredible suspense and I couldn’t stop reading.
The thing I love the most about John Green’s books is the fact that I think about them, about the decisions and revelations and lines for hours and days in a row. He has the kind of talent that can make you close the last page of a novel and come out as a different person. His way of writing and portraying feelings makes you feel understood.
Looking for Alaska is a journey of self-discovery that explores true understanding, forgiveness, and eventually, the idea of love itself. But more importantly, it teaches you that even though life is hard and at times scary, every single one of us is strong enough to go through it all.