I had just finished reading John Green’s “Looking for Alaska”, a book that I had intended to read for quite sometime—if I did manage to get a copy. Luckily, my friend Chica has got some super sleuthing skills and reserved a copy for me from Sketchbooks. (Reportedly their last copy, so I was in luck.)
“Looking for Alaska” is a young adult novel, told from the point of view of Miles “Pudge” Halter, who leaves his life in Florida in exchange for Culver Creek boarding school in Alabama, as he embarks on his quest for the “Great Perhaps” (quoting the French Renaissance writer François Rabelais).
In Culver Creek, Pudge meets a bevy of interesting characters, including: Chip “The Colonel” Martin, his roommate; Takumi Hikohito, who often felt left out of their small circle; Lara Buterskaya, a Romanian immigrant and one-time girlfriend of Pudge; and Alaska Young, a smart, vivacious, wild, reckless, and moody girl who is the center of Pudge’s affections.
Throughout his stay at Culver Creek, Pudge joins the band of misfits in pulling pranks, retaliating at the Weekday Warriors, engaging in one too many nights of debauchery, and struggling to conquer the challenges of high school. The book is divided into two parts, “Before” and “After”, the point of reference is one event that would change the lives of the characters.
“Looking for Alaska” has generated much controversy, insofar as its portrayal of vices being part and parcel of a normal teenager’s life. Beyond that, I think it is an extremely powerful book that deals with the central theme of grief. As its title suggests, after that one defining moment that would change their lives, Pudge and his friends embark on a journey in search for answers, in search for anything to assuage their guilt, and in the process find some telling realizations about themselves.
Green masterfully weaves philosophical and literary thought in crafting the plot and dialogue among the main protagonists, creating interesting and intelligent characters that openly flout central authority. I understand why the book may ruffle the feathers of some upright conservative moralists (haha, the use of such description was entirely intentional), but I think it does provide comfort for anyone who remembers feeling lost and losing a big battle during their teenage years—even when such problems seem all too petty, in retrospect.
The book is a quick read, but don’t count on it on making you feel light and bubbly after reading it. After all, some of the most important realizations that we come up with come from life’s darkest experiences.