“Looking for Alaska” is John green’s debut novel, published in Mar. 2005 by Speak.
“Looking for Alaska” was my first ever experience reading Green. I was mid-teens, just coming out of “The Hunger Games” train and looking for a new experience. I don’ think Green had risen to the monolithic popularity we see with him today. It was just the Vlogbrothers and his upcoming bestseller, “Paper Towns.” I knew Green was a writer of prankster stories and wild teenage adventures, but I had no idea what was awaiting me in this novel.
The story opens with Miles Halter, a young boy being sent away to a boarding school in Alabama, a place he very closely associates with the worst of rednecks. He quickly befriends his roommate, Chip “The Colonel” Martin. Martin is a small ball of anger who nicknames Halter to “Pudge” because of how skinny he is. Chip introduces Miles to Alaska Young and that’s where this story really begins. Miles falls instantly for her, only to find out that she already has a boyfriend who was in college. Alaska is wild, brash and flirtatious, leading Miles into sticky situations and sending him on the night of his dreams. She leads him on and tries to set him up with a Russian girl named Lara Buterskaya, but again and again they seem to always be drawn back to each other.
“Looking for Alaska” was a stark change of humor for me coming out of “The Hunger Games.” I loved Green’s comedy and the way these teenagers’ lives were so extraordinary within their schoolyard confines. As I’ve said before in my review of “Paper Towns,” Green is a master of realistic fantasy, taking to the limit what is conceivable amongst a group of high school students. I found every character to be very unique and they added their own flavors to the story as a whole. I could not imagine Miles getting along through the story without Chip or Alaska existing without Lara. Miles will make you reminiscent of your high school years even if you didn’t get to experience the wild adventures that he goes on through the novel.
I’m not sure if the Alabama setting played much of a role in the actual story. Miles seemed upset with it in the beginning, but there was nothing very particular that screamed Alabama to me in the story. It was just a large high school in a generalized southern town. If I had a big critique, it would be Green could have used this setting to do something more special, like SeaWorld in “Paper Towns” or the Anne Frank House in “The Fault in Our Stars.” I know that Green chose this setting because it was where he grew up, which makes it a good choice for his first novel, but he didn’t take advantage of it.
This novel comes with a big twist at the end that could upset the reader, but I think Green handles it nicely and I was still highly satisfied with the ending. It is so surrounded by humour and the outrageously thought out pranks in the school.
I would highly recommend reading this novel. It is his first novel and a good place to start if you are new to his bibliography.
If you want to buy it, it is available on Amazon, Bookdepository, Barnes & Noble and most other major booksellers.
You can also look out for the movie adaptation coming in 2016.
4.50 / 5.00