Published by Dutton on March 3rd, 2005
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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.
Here we go, issue 328597 in “The Chronicles of Debby, the Heartless Bitch”. As much as I hoped that I would fall in love with Looking for Alaska like almost everyone else and be reduced to a sobbing mess as I was practically promised I would be… it just didn’t work out. Grief stories are officially not for me.
I should say up front that I’ve already read The Fault in Our Stars and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and thus, I am familiar with his writing style and devices he typically uses. And that’s issue number one. His characters are all extremely similar. We have the intelligent and witty main character, the manic pixie dream girl love interest, and the sidekick best friend who has moments of quirkiness and vulgarity. Admittedly, The Fault in Our Stars is rather different and unique, but I’ve heard that Paper Towns has this same pattern too. To sum it up: I just wasn’t impressed with the characters in Looking for Alaska, I didn’t connect to them, and I couldn’t bring myself to actively care for them either.
Particularly the main character, Miles, I just didn’t give a rat’s ass about. He had instalove feelings for Alaska and meanwhile pretty much stomped all over the feelings of Lara, who liked him for some totally inexplicable reason. But perhaps the most memorable scene in this whole freaking book to me – showing that this book seriously didn’t work for me – is this brutally awkward blowjob scene. Lara wants to give Miles a blowjob (after they’re dating exactly one day), then she sticks his dick in her mouth and freezes. “Now what?” she asks. She asks if she should bite. Miles doesn’t know either – no, due to the heat of the moment, all memories of porn have been swept away. So they go and ask Alaska. She laughs and explains it to them. And then they go and do it.
Words cannot describe the very many issues I have with this scene. It just plain made me feel extremely uncomfortable and…. No. Just no. NO.
But John Green’s strength is in his writing style, and that is obvious. The man definitely has a way with words, and his prose is beautifully fluid. While this didn’t have quite as many quotable quotes as The Fault in Our Stars, it wasn’t hard to just revel in the prose.
I did, however, have trouble connecting to the story. Not only were the character’s John’s standard mix, and thus, in my mind, boring, but being a fan of the Vlogbrothers on YouTube meant that I could see John in everything. In hobbies and interests he wound into the story. In references mentioned in his videos. The curse of knowledge surely had its effect on me. I kept getting drawn out of the story because of all these connections, and I can’t help but wish I knew nothing about John so that this wouldn’t have bothered me.
Now we come to the plot. It’s hard to talk about it without spoiling things but… I thought it was rather obvious what was going to happen. There was a lot of foreshadowing that I picked up on, and instead of it being subtle and beautiful, because I wasn’t too connected to the characters or engrossed in the story, as an outsider looking in, I clearly saw the traces of the author’s plotting, setting up the domino pieces in exactly the right layout to let it all fall down. So, when it happened, I didn’t even blink. The shock factor had been eliminated due to the foreshadowing.