Book Review of “Looking for Alaska” by John Green
Written by Amy Pan
Ever since the beginning of the ‘John Green phenomenon-outbreak-epidemic’ period of time, I have been hanging on the edge of my seat attempting to read every Green novel in existence. My third conquest, Looking for Alaska, is an intriguing coming-of-age novel that is outstanding in every way. The storyline doesn’t resort to a happily ever after ending, instead resolving with the characters each seeking closure on their own terms. This is a book about the young teenage life and everything that goes with it: vulnerability, emotions, attempts to belong, and the countless pursuits to face the world armed with the little knowledge and strength gained in the first one or two decades of our lives.
The story unfolds with a great, explosive pace that will prevent you from ever wanting to stop reading. It takes a few chapters for the usual initial questions to be answered and for Miles’ background to be explained, of course, but everything settles comfortably. Among those are the protagonists and Miles’ other companions at Culver Creek Boarding School. Witty, naive, and full of individual quirks, John Green crafts some of the most realistic and unique characters in young adult literature. A selection of those appear in Looking for Alaska, enhancing the plot and peaking my interest at every page. Their mysterious, impulsive personalities overshadow the occasional curses–understandably part of teenagers’ lives–and reflect their rebellious hearts seeking resolution, answers, and an infinity to their freedom.
Green also delves into the complex topic of philosophy through students’ religions class. Those classes are Miles’ escape to ponder subjects like enlightenment, karma, and the meaning of life, while the author himself addresses complex topics such as radical hope, unresolvable ambiguity, and mental labyrinths.
The John Green formula is, like always, at play here. Evidently, there is the protagonist developing an interest for their opposite gender while encountering life’s obstacles and balancing personal issues. Though Green’s characters are almost always original in one way or another, when it comes down to it, I still don’t love stories like this: stories where ‘better, more fascinating’ girls exist only as a means to bring brilliance to the comparatively unbrilliant lives of unbrilliant boys. Green’s heroines do resist this somewhat actively, as Alaska is, supposedly, a feminist. However, it is rarely reflected in any of her actions, therefore resulting in only words that express how much Alaska ‘adores and stands up for the female population’. There were also a few particular scenes where I felt the line of ‘teenage impulsiveness and angst’ were completely crossed. In those cases, both relevancy and discomfort had to be reconsidered.
Stereotypes and cliches aside, Looking for Alaska was an amazing read. Though I expected the usual John Green insinuated tears like in The Fault in Our Stars, I did not cry, but emotions and heartstrings were, nonetheless, tugged at. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys novels that are thought-provoking and make you think twice about the world. 4.5/5 for yet another spectacular John Green book.