YA fiction

Looking for Alaska – John Green – 8/10

“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.”

lookingforalaskaI’ve read John Green’s latest and most promoted book, The Fault In Our Stars, and loved it, albeit with some minor reservations. I think this is better. Miles is the new kid at prestigious Alabama boarding school Culver Creek. Far from condemning him to being the social recluse he was at his old school, his roommate Chip (aka Colonel Catastrophe) takes him under his wing and introduces him to schooltime pranks, smoking, and the enigmatic Alaska Young. Alaska is hypnotic, unpredictable, trouble and generous…

I preferred this to TFIOS, even though TFIOS has been Green’s breakthrough book. Tragedy hangs over TFIOS inescapably; the whole plot is steeped in it. Alaska is much more everyday, full of the para-tragedy of the threat of expulsion, of being caught smoking or staring out the window or throwing up on your girlfriend. After the shock of the tragedy around which the book pivots, the characters’ reactions are credible without being predictable. Miles, The Colonel, Takumi, Alaska and Lara are a band of thieves, but a happy and warm-hearted group. They subvert authority while retaining fervent respect when they feel it is intellectually due. 

Green obviously has a gift for creating memorable teenage characters. Like Hazel and Augustus in TFIOS, I won’t be forgetting Miles Halter or Alaska Young any time soon. Their memories for last words and poety respectively (and The Colonel’s for capital cities), Alaska’s impulsive and spontaneous nature, her love of fast driving, fast food and fast friends; Miles’ timidity and strength under pressure. Importantly, they are quite different from his characters in other books – it’s hard enough to create a few characters like this band in Alaska. To resist the temptation to reuse them is commendable.

One of my objections to TFIOS was that 17-year-old boys don’t talk like Augustus does (or at least, none that I’ve ever met talk like he does). In Alaska, Miles often thinks lyrically, but speaks in a more typical manner. In LFA there is much less writing for the cute quote, the school study guide; the writing is both more straightforward and richer than in TFIOS.

“I was caught in a love triangle with one dead side.”

TFIOS was very good. This is better. Read it.

Additional information:

Copy borrowed from Mini-Me
Publisher: HarperCollins, 263 pages (paperback)
Order LOOKING FOR ALASKAfrom Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

4 thoughts on “Looking for Alaska – John Green – 8/10”

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