Monday, 23 May 2011

Looking for Alaska - John Green

This is my first book for John Green and I've heard mixed reviews many times about this one, his debut. This, as far as I know, is the only John Green book avaliable in England right now and I have seen it countless of times both in the blogosphere and in the shops.
This was bought for me by one of my best friends, Tijana for my birthday in February. She wanted apparently to get me another book but the lovely proper bookshop that she went to, The Lion and The Unicorn, didn't have it so she got me this one as I had said that I wanted to read it, so here it is.

Synopsis: Miles Halter transfers from his childhood school in Florida to an exclusive boarding school in steamy Alabama, Culver Creek, to look for the 'Great Perhaps' quoted in the poet, Francois Rabelais' last words. Here, he finds many unique friends, including the funny, self-destructive Alaska, and many new and excting adventures, and of course pranks. Here as he tries to understand himself and his peers, he is pulled into Alaska's labyrinth that leads to some shocking consequences.

Review: I really liked this book, I really did. However, there are two small things that let it down, and from reading other reviews on this book, I know I'm not the only one that things these things.

Number 1: The book is in two parts, the chapters marked with the days leading up to the ultimate, shocking event (I am trying not to tell you too much because I read ahead of myself and found out beforehand and was shocked - I will be vague), both with 136 days before and after the event. Anyway, the first half was so good. Amazing even. I loved Mile's voice and how original all his friends are compared to other novels like this one. They are all such unique people with their own personality and not cliched or anything, however, you could also relate them to your own friends e.g. Alaska reminded me of my friend, George.
However, in the days afterwards, it started to go downhill. It started to get tedious, boring, went on and on about the same thing. It was also much shorter, or at least seemed it, than the first part which in the way I see it from the title, the 'After' bit is the whole point of the naming of the book. The book ended ambiguously too and it seemed a little rushed in a way that like you suddenly found out what they were looking for in about ten pages. I don't know....for me, it just wasn't how a book like this should end and it disappointed me slightly. There is an essay in response to an exam he is supposed to have done and well, would you really swear in your coursework? No way.

Number 2: Alaska started to get on my nerves. I know this was the whole point of her, that she was so two-faced in a way, but well, one minute she was all kind and happy. And then the next, she's screaming at them to go away and saying horrible, disturbing things. It was just so contrasting and I haven't met a person like that at all, so I guess I don't really understand what it's like but still, the fact that the novel is named after her, she was awfully annoying. That's it really.

This book held both good and bad points. The characters, both teachers and students (The Eagle and Takumi made me laugh) and descriptions were all so original and different to many things I've read before. You get to see into what it's like to be a teenager and John Green has done this successfully as well, the things they did DO happen now e.g. nicknames for people, smoking. I should know as I am their age in the book: 16. The 'After' bit held really good and emotional points which illistrated the grief caused by such an event and how different people deal with it. It was nice to see the union of Colonel and Miles after the event and how they ARE like Alaska so rightly says, like a married couple, which makes me think of people I know who act like a marriage couple a lot. It's just so funny and interesting to see how they have become so close to be that friendly and act in that way, although of the same sex.
There is more humour within it than that including the last words carefully chosen (Miles has an obsession with last words of historical figures)

I would really recommend this book to anyone that doesn't mind the dark events, it really is a good Young Adult book with some amazing bits in it that are so well done.
My copy of the book is the one above and you will only understand the significance of the flower when you read it through the whole way (it isn't a massive one but it is pretty big). There is a lot of foreshadowing in this book that you don't even realise when reading it normally - only at the end.

Overall, I think John Green has done a great job, especially as this was his debut, however, there are points where it isn't as good and slightly rushed. It does give a good insight into a teenager's live and how they deal with big personal issues such as the main event in the novel and acts as a lesson for other teenagers on how to deal with their grief and guilt. I really enjoyed this books still though, despite some of the low points. I am going to look for more of his books in the future.

(Sorry for the vagueness!)

I give it 4 out 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 263
Publisher: Harper Collins
Challenges: None


  1. Great review. I've tried to read John Green before but I don't like his writing style. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, though!
    I got you through the CEP! Check out my blog (I'm a new follower!)
    Lissa @

  2. Yeah I've seen people write that about his stuff, I quite like it though, he's more casual than some authors.
    Thank you very much! Yeah, sure, I'll check it out :)

  3. (Friend Tijana is glad you like the present.)


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