Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Review | Looking for Alaska

Being the ass backwards person that I am, I read Looking for Alaska two days after finishing The Fault in Our Stars. Not surprisingly, there was nothing but praise for the rest of John Green's books, particularly Looking for Alaska. I was absolutely unprepared diving into this book. It confused my feelings if that's even a thing.

Miles “Pudge” Halter decides that he wants to go to a school called Culver Creek, seeking a Great Perhaps. Along the way, he meets a myriad of people bursting with personality including The Colonel, Takumi, The Eagle, Weekday Warriors, then, lo and behold, Alaska Young. Pudge becomes engulfed by all things Alaska, finding her more captivating than anyone he has ever met. He yearns for this sort of self revelation that will lead him to adventure, or potentially the key to understanding Alaska past her good looks and quick wit. Then as the book says on the back, “After. Nothing is the same.”

Subsequent to buying the book, I read that it took place at a boarding school and I was like wow, that's original. Might I remind you that some of my reviews are rich in sarcasm. As I flipped through the first few pages, I thought it was a little on the slow side. Suddenly, the pace increased. It took me about one hundred pages to conclude that maybe my problem hadn't been with the beginning. Everything was fine. That was my problem.

I didn't know how to react to what I was reading. The words didn't seem to sink in while I was reading them and there was no deeper interpretation on my behalf...until I finished reading it. Alas, the back cover had been correct in more ways than one. After. Nothing was the same, and I understood. After I read the whole story, not just large chunks at a time, the feelings flooded my entire being.

Looking back on it, I had been reading the book with a semi-narrow perspective. People gave it a variety of praise for it's quote worthy lines, emphasis on minor misbehavior, and the climax that I found predictable, yet again. Consequently, those were the exact moments that I preyed on like a hawk. I found those quotes people couldn't shut up about such as, “If people were rain, I was drizzle, and she was a hurricane” and I tried to see the shock and awe factor because that line has to be the most tweeted, shared, and posted from the book. I saw the poetic kind of quality the quote embodied. I was aware that there would be lots of drinking, smoking, and casual conversation involving sex or even the act itself. It didn't offend me, I get it. It served a purpose. I noticed how the After was intertwined within the final pages and how it affected everyone's thoughts, emotions, and actions.

But I did not feel those things until the book was over. Sitting on my bed for at least fifteen minutes, I had no idea whatsoever how to feel about Looking for Alaska. It was different than I had imagined. There was a mix of good and bad. It had value. It wasn't the best book I've read but it had substance.

That is why I appreciate this book. It has a plethora of contrivances yet they seemed essential. People are made up of schemas that are put to schemes in the grand scale of things. Teens mess up, have sloppy relationships, and think they know what they want; but sometimes, they discover what they want. Other times, they don't find what they were searching for to begin with, or they discover it too late. The world is a funny place.

On a less emotional level, I liked these characters loads more than I thought was possible. Alaska was what I thought she would be. Not my favorite, but she encompassed certain qualities I applaud. I also liked that this book was told from a male perspective. Pudge comes off as an ordinary guy and that's what a lot of people are looking for in literary figures: individuals that resemble themselves with extraordinary variation. My favorite characters other than Pudge had to be Takumi and The Eagle. Takumi was flat out hilarious in some scenes and The Eagle was a riot in his own way. Poor bastard.

Nonetheless, John Green proved he is worthy yet again and that I should be eternally grateful.

[Irrelevant suggestion to past/future Looking for Alaska readers or anyone who has time to waste: Go watch a video where Elena Gant speaks. Afterward, go read any section that involves Lara talking. Boom. That's what Lara's accent sounds like in my head. That is all.]

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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