Friday, July 2, 2010

Looking for Alaska


I read a lot of good books and as some of you know, lately I've raved about many of them but once in a while you actually fall in love with a book. That's what happened when I unexpectedly fell in love with Looking for Alaska by John Green. I know it's not the most brilliant book in the world and it won't win the Booker or Pulitzer but I just fell in love with it...with the characters, the story and finally its message. This is a book that makes your heart soar. A book you want to give to all your friends. A book that really is some kind of wonderful.

Looking for Alaska is a young adult novel that I probably would never have picked up but then Sasha and the Silverfish  and  Paperback Reader mentioned that reading Green is like being privy to a secret that you can't wait to divulge. That's quite an irresistible line and I knew I just had to know the secret.

Miles Halter is sixteen and friendless so he decides to move to another state and attend boarding school in Birmingham, Alabama. He wants to start anew and find 'the Great Perhaps' that Francois Rabelais spoke about just before he died. Oh, that's another thing, Miles memorizes famous last words and Looking for Alaska is peppered with funny quotations spoken by the famous before they expired. At his new school, Culver Creek, Miles becomes fast friends with his roomate Chip (the Colonel); Alaska, a fascinating but moody girl; Takumi, a rapping Japanese boy; and Lara, a Russian girl who wants to be Miles' girlfriend.

The book is divided into two parts: before and after. I don't want to give too much away but suffice it to say that a tragic event occurs to one of the main characters. The first half feels like a John Hughes film... quirky and funny. Miles arrives at his new school and quickly settles in. The second half should be directed by Sofia Coppola. It deals with the loss of one of the characters and how the remaining friends try to understand what happened and why. Miles goes through a phase where he questions life, death and what happens after we die.

I thought this was a beautiful novel and though it's marketed for young adults, this particular adult still thought it was wonderful. I just have to write up some quotes below so I don't forget them.

"The times that were the most fun seemed always to be followed by sadness now, because it was when life started to feel like it did when she was with us that we realized how utterly, totally gone she was." (page 190)

"When adults say that, "Teenagers think they are invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail." (page 220)

16 comments:

  1. This sounds like a very worthwhile and enjoyable read-thanks for sharing it with us

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  2. Agreed. This is a beautiful book. I actually had a hard time sort of reviewing this because of how it can be both simple and complex at the same time. I repeat: This is a beautiful book.

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  3. Oops, I still haven't reviewed Paper Towns and you have been and back again. Suffice to say, I highly recommend it.

    I think your comparison to John Hughes films is spot on; pithy dialogue, emotional resonance and a quirkiness that makes your heart sing.

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  4. A copy of Looking for Alaska happens to have made it into my Book Depository basket and to the checkout...

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  5. I like the passage you included at the end of your post. I haven't read Looking for Alaska yet, but I would like to. The cover of the copy we carry at my work is black with smoke rising from a just-extinguished candle. I don't know how that image fits with the story, but it intrigues me.

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  6. Great review! I will add to my list and keep an eye out for it.

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  7. Wow. Wonderful review. Admittedly, haven't read anything of Green's, but if you, Sasha and Aldrin recommend it that highly, then it's something I can look forward to. Thanks!

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  8. Ive added this to me wish list.

    The first half feels like a John Hughes film... The second half should be directed by Sofia Coppola.

    I think this bit appeals to me

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  9. Wow! This sounds like a great read - I just added it to my TBR list. Great review!

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  10. Lovely review! John Green rang a bell for me, but I am not able to remember where I encountered the writer's name before. Your comment "I thought this was a beautiful novel and though it's marketed for young adults, this particular adult still thought it was wonderful" made me smile :) Maybe 'this particular adult' is young too :) I enjoyed reading both the passages that you have quoted - very beautiful!

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  11. I have been getting sick of YA recently, but Green is able to rise above your typical YA. I have only read Paper Towns so far but I own this one.

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  12. Someone recently recommended this book to me - after your review, I will surely pick it up! Thanks!

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  13. What a fantastic review. This book has been popping up all over the blogosphere and both the title and the cover has sparked my interest. I'll have to check this one out. I really enjoy that kind of adolescent honesty; characters with heart.

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  14. Great review! I've heard about this one on a few blogs now. I don't usually read YA but I might have to make an exception and give this one a try ;-)

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  15. I've seen this one around and it seems like in the past week or so I keep finding really good reviews about it! Great review! I'll have to pick this one up!

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  16. I realize I commented on your post back before I had read Looking for Alaska, and now that I have read it, I am back to say that I like your comment about the first half being like a John Hughes film and the second half being a Sofia Coppola. I didn't think of it in movie terms while I was reading, but looking back, I can definitely see that.

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