Book Name: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: YA fiction
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Format: Paperback checked out from the local libraryGoodreads’ Words: 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.
My Words: John Green’s first book is my third book of John Green. I fell in love with his writing while reading TFIOS and Katherines just wanted me to want more. All of his books that I have read have somehow managed to make me sit back and contemplate on certain aspects of life. LFA has been no different. If I were a teen, this book would have been one of my favourite books. This book would have filled my heart with a different kind of surprising and enchanting buzz especially reading about the ‘Great Perhaps’, ‘the famous last words’ and ‘subverting the patriarchal paradigm’. However, now that I have read this book as an adult, there is a certain age-gap between me and the characters, and since I have read a lot more books now than I had when I was a teen, I am certainly more rusted. I would have loved to have read this book when I was a teen.
Now I know, John green has no doubt read gazillion thoughts and views on his book, but I could not stop myself from adding my little tidbit. (Warning: Contains spoilers!)
LFA, for me, is dealing with the ambiguities and the helplessness and sorrow resulting from the unresolutions in life. That you can either keep dwelling on it or find a loophole to reconcile yourselves with the hardest possible questions that life throws at us. It is very easy and very human to get trapped in the ‘labyrinth’ as JG calls it, metaphor for the suffering in life. Especially when you feel a certain amount of guilt associated with instances such as the loss of a loved one. One may go through a kaleidoscope of scenarios which he/she could have done to avoid the unspeakable. You can keep blaming and punishing yourself and thus continue to go deeper into the labyrinth. In the end we all are just human beings who have a right to commit mistakes. And even though the one who can forgive you is gone, and life is harsh enough to punish you endlessly for one mistake that lead to the circumstances, you still have to understand that only you have the key to find your way out of the labyrinth. Alaska could never reconcile that question for herself regarding her mother. She never could find a way to live with herself and to search for forgiveness if it is still available even if her mother is gone. But Pudge does find an answer that brings him solace by believing that it is possible for he and Alaska both to attain mutual forgiveness; thus giving us a lesson that there is hope and forgiveness in a life with unresolvable grief.
Of course, it seems very easy when on paper but at least there is a perspective one can think of when stuck in one of the blocking avenues in the labyrinth. That’s what I take away from this book.
I liked the structure of the book very much: countdown leading up to the event, then countdown leading away from it. Very cool. The before and after also shows the before and after mindset of the characters in the books. How everyone is somehow stuck in their own labyrinths of misery along with Alaska. And how after, everyone else finds their own way out. Pudge seeks forgiveness for him and Alaska in a paper for his test. The colonel drives fast through the accident scene and breaks down after they come out of it alive. Takumi seeks forgiveness by writing a letter. Maybe Jake finds his own way out by not attending the funeral.
This structure would have been novel to a teen me 🙂
The language choices are really interesting. He has made use of metaphors throughout the book. Metaphors like when Pudge and Alaska are sitting in the dark and he cannot see Alaska which really was the metaphor for that Alaska was so mysterious there was no way in seeing her in any light.
The story is interspersed with other interesting factors like belief system and a religious tradition, the unwritten code of behaviour among teen students, the pranks etc. They all help in the shaping up of a young adult teen when life happens around him/her. I guess this sounds like Holden Caulfield all over again, but LFA has its own charm which can no doubt make it another classic on the way.
This Printz Award winning book surely is yet another thought-provocating book of John Green, which I think everyone, and not just young adults, should read. The more than perfect writing style and a compelling story makes it a worthwhile read. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Oh! and the capital of Sierra Leone (originally “Serra Leoa” – Portuguese for Lioness Mountains) is Freetown. (Did not know the country, did not know its capital!)