Nothing will ever wrench open my insides quite like The Fault In Our Stars did, but after reading another John Green gem I’ve decided I quite like his style. He really gets teen misery in all shapes and sizes, you know?
The first half of Looking For Alaska very much reminded me of Prep (which I HIGHLY recommend), in a good way. Sixteen-year-old Miles Halter is obsessed with learning famous people’s last words, as in what they said right before they died, but his own life has been extremely uneventful thus far. Miles wants to shake things up and seek a “great perhaps” (still not really sure what that means) by attending a boarding school in Alabama, and shake things up he does indeed. Within minutes of arriving at Culver Creek Academy he has his first-ever nickname, Pudge, given by his roommate Chip a.k.a. The Colonel, and a new reason for being: Alaska. Not the state, the girl.
The Colonel (I cannot for the life of me read that as cur-nel, I always read it exactly as it’s spelled: col-o-nel), Alaska and another delinquent, Takumi, have been helping each other survive at Culver Creek for the past few years, and they accept Miles/Pudge into their antics with open arms. They teach him their devious ways of sneaking alcohol and cigarettes and pranking various members of the junior class, and finally Pudge feels like he is where he is supposed to be when he is supposed to be there. All the characters are endearing in their own special way, and although Alaska has that slightly annoying Femme Fatale Syndrome you really root for her to just reciprocate Pudge’s love already.
The book takes a turn for the tragic worse when Alaska finally does reciprocate Pudge’s love, in a physical sense after having way too much wine, but then leaves campus and gets in a fatal car accident. After that the story is a bit anti-climactic — I wasn’t that impressed by Pudge, The Colonel and Takumi’s final prank in honor of Alaska — but just like in The Fault In Our Stars, Green does a great job painting the deep and bottomless misery that envelopes Pudge and his friends after loss.
I recommend this as a quick but sad read, and I urge everyone who thinks they can handle it to read The Fault In Our Stars before filming wraps and the movie trailer starts hitting the airwaves. Trust me, it won’t be as good.