I’ve only ever read one John Green book before – The Fault in Our Stars – so when my husband found me a couple of John Green books second-hand, I was curious to try more. I picked up Looking for Alaska knowing absolutely nothing about it. I didn’t even read the blurb.
Looking for Alaska tells the story of a teenage boy named Miles who is intelligent but lacking in social graces. He goes away to Culver Creek Preparatory High School in Alabama. It’s a boarding school where there seems to be minimal adult supervision and the kids get up to all sorts of trouble in their spare time. Miles bonds with his new roommate Chip nicknamed The Colonel, Takumi, a hip-hop enthusiast, and a beautiful but troubled girl named Alaska.
While all the kids are smart, they spend most of their spare time having intellectual conversations, drinking and smoking and having a prank war against other students and the Principal. This book sits firmly in the coming-of-age category. It’s John Green’s first book and a lot of it is said to be autobiographical. For example, Miles is fascinated by the last words of famous people which he shares with John Green.
I don’t want to give away too much about this book, but as you would expect Miles falls for Alaska, even though she has a boyfriend. There’s relationship drama, coping with family issues and then a tragedy that affects everyone in different ways. I felt Looking for Alaska was a bit the same as The Fault in Our Stars because of the tragedy angle. Up until that point, not much was happening so it’s like the author decided to create some drama that way. But perhaps I’m being too harsh.
While I read swiftly through this book, I didn’t feel like I identified with any of the characters. I didn’t see myself in any of them. Maybe because I was well-behaved as a teen and I never talked like a 40-year-old. Also, these kids smoke so much! Is smoking still cool? But I did know girls like Alaska who were beautiful, exciting to hang out with and a bit of a train wreck. At times I found the conversations between the teens pretentious, but maybe there are kids out there who talk like that. My teen years were a long time ago…
I thought Looking for Alaska was a good contemporary YA read. I can’t say I love John Green books. But I’m willing to read more.
Verdict: A coming of age novel that will pull on your heartstrings.
Have you read any John Green novels? What did you think?