“Looking for Alaska” by John Green
Publisher’s Synopsis: 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. 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.
3 out of 5 stars
Ah, teen angst. The highs and the lows, the drama of it all.
It’s hard to review this book without giving away the main plot spoiler but I’m going to give it my best shot.
Our main character, Pudge, is introduced to us as he is leaving home to start attending boarding school, the same one his father attended. He is the epitome of the “loser” teen boy – gawky, friendless, geeky, skinny and tall. So much so that he is a bit of a caricature. His room-mate and best friend-to-be is the “Colonel”, a short, normal boy who introduces Pudge to those who rapidly become his close circle of friends. One of those friends is Alaska.
Alaska is also a caricature, one of a manic pixie dream girl. Gorgeous, with lush curves, smart, funny and unattainable. And damaged. Damaged by an incident in her childhood, she smokes too much, and drinks too much.
The books is split into two parts, “Before” and “After”. The before portion of the book counts down the days until the pivotal event takes place, the after counts the days after the event. Lots of the reviews of this book have issues with this – I don’t, and actually found it to be one of the saving graces of the story. You know you are supposed to be getting somewhere even when it feels like you aren’t.
I have issues with the realism of the characters. I can believe that Pudge is a friendless geeky 15 year old, but can’t believe that the first of the pranks pulled (and there are many in this book) involve duck taping him and throwing him in a lake. The pranks get less believable as the book goes on with the final prank involving a male stripper in front of the entire school. The attitude of the faculty was along the lines of, “Those darn kids!” after the prank.
Alaska herself is supposed to be an enigma, and I suppose she is. She leaves an unsolvable mystery for Pudge and his friends, but not before confusing them and filling them with guilt. Her completely self-destructive and self absorbed behavior is supposed to be accepted by her friends and there is an unending litany of her looks, her body, her breasts, her curves, etc.
Actually, now that I think about it, that’s probably realistic as it’s supposed to be the point of view of a 15 year old boy.
What’s not realistic is a scene in which Pudge is on the receiving end of a blow job and neither he nor the giver know what’s supposed to happen. Really? A 15 year old who doesn’t know how a bj is supposed to go? No one watches porn in this world? (Alaska saves the day by demonstrating on a tube of toothpaste. I’ll be thinking about that every time I brush for a long while.)
I know I am not the demographic that John Green is trying to reach with this book, not by a long shot. Still, I have read and enjoyed YA fiction. This book has some great ratings and reviews. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.