"Looking for Alaska" by John Green | Book Review
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Page Count: 221
First Published: March 3, 2005
Ever since reading and loving John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, I've been hoping to feel the same way about another one of his books. Sadly, it hasn't happened yet. Don't get me wrong, I love John Green's writing—I just wish his older books had the same kind of complexity and emotional punch The Fault in Our Stars had, where I feel his writing talent really blossomed. It's possible that if I read his novels in order of publication I would enjoy the older stuff more, but that's not how things worked out for me.
Looking for Alaska is a coming-of-age story set at a boarding school where Miles "Pudge" Halter is making new friends and experiencing new things. Of course, he meets a girl named Alaska by whom he is completely smitten. The novel's chapters are split into "Before" and "After", which lets you know something dramatic is going to go down (and by the time it happens, you can easily guess what it's going to be). If you've read other John Green books, you know exactly how this book works. Quirky protagonist? Check. Profound lessons learned? Check. Awesome friendships? Check. Cool girl? Check...
Speaking of the "cool girl", let's talk about the characters and start with Alaska. Whenever I read a John Green book, I think back to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and that concept of the "cool girl" who doesn't actually exist. It's spot on, and John Green always has that "cool girl" in his novels (at least in the ones I read). Alaska is such a character—she is a teenage boy's fantasy, complete with opinions about everything and some bad girl flare. Of course, she has a darker side that she later reveals to our protagonist, but she makes sure everyone sees her the way she wants to be seen.
As for Pudge—he's the inexperienced, honest, "nice guy" type. He is the YA contemporary protagonist you have seen over and over again, and of course he has a unique quirk so we can find him adorable (in this case, he is obsessed with famous last words). Then, there are loyal lovable friends, and wise and understanding adults... Do you see where I'm going with this? I have a problem with Looking for Alaska being similar to books I've read before, and don't get me started on Paper Towns déjà vu when it comes to the actual plot.
Of course, there are good things about this novel—like I said, I love John Green's writing. The way he uses the language, the metaphors he writes, the lessons he wants you to learn... this is all great. The message at the end of Looking for Alaska is actually something I really appreciated. However, I just couldn't really make myself care about any of these characters, or the plot for that matter. I know a lot of people love this novel, and I know this is John Green's first book (which I think is very impressive), but I just can't help comparing it to his other works. Maybe YA contemporary just isn't for me. In the end, if this wasn't a John Green book it's possible that I wouldn't have finished it. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I couldn't help feeling bored with the same old teenage drama that took up the majority of this book.
Overall, if you enjoy YA contemporary literature and you've somehow skipped this book—I think you will find Looking for Alaska enjoyable. As for me, I don't think I'll be checking out any more of John Green's books until he writes something new. This one just wasn't my cup of tea.
Have you read Looking for Alaska? What did you think?