Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Miles (aka Pudge) heads to Culver Creek Boarding School in search of his “Great Perhaps”. The plot gets going when he arrives and meets the Colonel and moves along nicely with a countdown at the end of each episode, moving towards a pivotal, halfway point in the novel. The story has a clear beginning, middle and end and carries a self-awareness of time. When Alaska is thrown into the mix, she really spices things up and keeps the reader on their toes.
At first, Miles comes off a bit boring as a narrator, and indeed, as a character. I have to remind myself that he is a narrator that responds to events that happen around him and the feelings they evoke and since nothing happens at home in Florida, he has nothing to react to and so his narration and character come off quite flat. I like the progress in narration as we get deeper into the plot. It becomes more intimate as we get to know the characters and become familiar with the boarding school. This isn’t the first time the narration comes off a bit stiff though. Colin in An Abundance of Katherines and Will in Will Grayson, Will Grayson are all quite similar narrators. Miles tends to come off pretty whiny a lot too which periodically grates on my nerves.
I love Alaska. I love how she’s so self-destructive and doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks about her. And I especially love that Green doesn’t make you outright pity her. Miles is a bit flat. The Colonel is a good supporting character for Alaska. She eclipses the rest of the cast of characters. There isn’t a whole lot of diversity with the characters but having said that, Alaska intrigues me and draws me for the start.
Quality of Writing:
The quality of the writing is fine. It comes off a bit stilted and stiff at times, like some of John Green’s other narrators.
I wish I got to hear a it more about Florida. I mean, I’ve been there four times and I know hot it is but Green draws comparisons a lot between Florida and Alabama, mostly about the heat and it comes off as a recounting of what Green knows about Florida rather than making me believe that Miles has actually spent his whole life in Florida.. Miles describes the Culver Creek Boarding School in almost clinical detail but I guess that’s fine since we can get a picture of where the story takes place. I wanted a bit more personality in the descriptions to link it back to Alaska and the Colonel.
The story is nice. The characters are good. The location is nothing special. Alaska is a standout for me – though I’ve no doubt she’ll get on many readers’ nerves. I think Stephen Chbosky achieves what Green fails to here. Charlie (in The Perks of Being a Wallflower) reacts to situations in much the same way as Miles does but we empathise with Charlie where I tend to find Miles irritating at times. The letter-style episodes are more intimate and forge a relationship with the reader.
NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…
- Not Green’s finest work
- Alaska is a standout character
- The countdown style builds anticipation
Books You May Also Like:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – for an intimate style of writing with an unconventional but loveable narrator
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green – for a dark and funny story with two, very different voices