Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Looking for Alaska

Miles Halter is a quirky teen who has no real friends to speak of, and he has finally managed to convince his parents to send him to boarding school - the same boarding school his father attended. Miles has the rather odd obsession of collecting (and memorizing) the last words of famous people, and one of his favorite quotations is writer Francois Rabelais' final words: "I go to seek a great perhaps." Miles is looking for his "great perhaps" as he takes his step into the unknown world of Culver Creek Boarding School.

Once at school he becomes friends with his roommate, nicknamed "The Colonel," who is equally intelligent and quirky, and the Colonel introduces Miles (soon nicknamed "Pudge" because he is so skinny) to his friend Alaska. Miles immediately falls head over heels for Alaska, even though she is evidently supremely happy with her boyfriend. She is beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic, with a wicked sense of humor - and she is also deeply troubled and impulsive, with wild mood swings.

Miles is soon ensconced in the Culver Creek world of student dramas, friendship, cigarettes, pranks, and the occasional forbidden drinking binge. He is also challenged intellectually and spiritually by his classes, in particular his world religions course, which he finds thought provoking and, perhaps, applicable to his own life. Each section of the book counts down the number of day before an unknown event, an event that looms menacingly in the future, an event the reader can be sure will change Miles's life irrevocably.

It's not difficult to say why I loved this book. First and foremost, Miles's voice pulled me straight in, and as I listened to the audio version, I found Jeff Woodman's voice and interpretation to be just right for Miles, the way he speaks, how he thinks. I also loved that the book was made up of inextricable parts of laughter, thoughtfulness, loss, friendship, passion, and longing. Much like life, particularly during the teen years when all those things are heightened to an almost unbearable extent. I loved the characters, their conversations (which revealed so much about the characters, from what they said as much as from what they didn't say), their relationships with each other. And the prank...let's just say it's beautiful. Priceless. I defy anyone to read that scene without laughing out loud! And even though other parts of the book were painful to listen to, the conclusion left me feeling content and hopeful - and looking forward to reading more books by John Green.

Looking for Alaska by John Green; narrated by Jeff Woodman (Brilliance Audio, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf: "It’s really an outstanding book. I usually feel that the highest praise I can mentally (or in this blog) give a YA book is that it will make kids think. But then I read this book, which made me, a sophisticated adult reader with an actual literature degree, think."
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On: "To anyone who’s ever been a teenager, fallen in love, gone through hard times, crumbled and tried to pick up the pieces, you’ll feel at one with Green’s writing. It’s magic what he does with a pen."
Things Mean a Lot: "Looking for Alaska is about loneliness, friendship, longing, loss, love and life. The writing style is simple, but still full of achingly beautiful passages."

14 comments:

  1. I love the smoky cover of this one. have a great holiday!

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  2. Glad to hear you liked it! John Green is one of my favourite authors.

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  3. "I loved the characters, their conversations (which revealed so much about the characters, from what they said as much as from what they didn't say)"

    Yes, yes, yes. He does that so well. I'm so glad you loved this book too!

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  4. Serena - thanks, and you, too!

    RR2 - I really did. Do you have a favorite of his books?

    Nymeth - I am glad I read your review, which definitely convinced me to try this one!

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  5. Isn't this an awesome book? :)

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  6. Luckily one our local bookshops was open til 10pm last night and had one copy left! After all the wonderful reviews I have read, it will be my first book to read of 2009. Great review, thanks. Glad you loved it too!

    Merry Christmas!

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  7. I'm so gonna read this one this year!

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  8. Em - yes, it is! :-)

    Mariel - I have to admit to now feeling a bit of book-recommendation stress - I really hope you like it! At least I'm not the only one who will be responsible for first-book-of-the-year letdown if you don't. But I can't imagine you won't, really. Looking forward to your review!

    Valentina - I'm glad! Can't wait to hear what you think. Or rather, read. You know what I mean! :-)

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  9. Great review!
    Beth Fehlbaum, author
    Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
    http://courageinpatience.blogspot.com
    Ch. 1 is online!

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  10. I really want to read this book!! I've read so many excellent reviews on it.

    On another note, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

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  11. I love this book! Have fun with the rest of John Green's books... they're all just as great!

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  12. It certainly sounds neat. I checked on YouTube looking for a trailer or an interview and there must be some kind of contest or class project because there are TONS!

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  13. Thanks, Beth!

    Fyrefly - I'm looking forward to them. I think I'll try An Abundance of Katherines next. Once I get my tbr pile down to a non-threatening size...

    Ladytink - Interesting! I'll have to go check that out.

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  14. Stephanie - I somehow missed your comment up there - sorry about that! I do hope you'll be able to read it, and I'll be waiting to hear your thoughts. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's, too!

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