Hello again my dear readers!
As promised, yet another review in my long slew of unpublished posts. This time, I’m focusing on John Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, written prior to The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) which you may know has recently been transcribed into movie format. The book was recommended to me in good faith by a young friend who shall remain nameless, knowing my penchant for reading and reviewing novels. So, I hope this does it justice.
Looking for Alaska was, admittedly, a book I began reading with a number of prejudices against John Green’s writing. After the hit that was TFIOS, people began to call out Green for the tagline he chose on the movie poster. I grew hesitant to delve any deeper. But, that’s when Alaska landed in my hands and I set aside my prejudices and read on into the world of YA fiction, which isn’t a field I’ve visited recently and didn’t quite know what to find within its pages.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Alaska dealt with a very adult topic in a setting which might be easier for younger generations to swallow; and that was the topic of death and the holes that are left behind in the aftermath, in the setting of an American college campus. The novel itself focuses on the growth of its protagonist, Miles, who goes off to college in search of a ‘great perhaps’ and a way to start the adventure of life that lies before him. Arriving on campus, he is greeted by his new roommate – the Colonel – who introduces him to the enigmatic and troubled personage of Alaska Young. Through his time at the College, he becomes a ‘close friend’ of Alaska and slowly begins to discover that she is a broken young woman, struggling to survive in a mental landscape that threatens to tear her apart. Her death halfway through the novel signifies a turning point for everyone – not only do Miles and the Colonel have to come to terms with not being able to prevent her death, but they also have to find some way to fill the hole that Alaska left in their lives, and understand what it was that led her to her death. This pursuit consumes them for the rest of the novel, but by the end they find that they have learnt an important lesson: that one will always be in pursuit of the ‘great perhaps’, and maybe even that ‘great perhaps’ is death itself. Maybe Alaska was searching for release, for a new experience. She wanted a purpose in life, and although she never got the chance to find it, at least the Colonel and Miles got a glimpse of what it might be. The run a memorial prank in her name, and the whole College sees it as an honourable and noble move. Looking for Alaska is a novel that does not trivialise the issues of teenagers, and reminds readers why this time in someone’s life is as equally important as any, and worthy of all the attention it can muster. It explores the ideas of personal growth and finding one’s path in life – the line ‘what’s your purpose?’ comes to mind from Avenue Q -, and finally, and most importantly, it tells teenagers that they are not alone. Whether it’s in grief, distress, anxiety, mental health issues, dealing with drugs and sex, or just dealing with friends, parents, teachers and the dreaded assignments and exams. It’s a deeply satisfying and emotional novel and I would highly recommend it to ALL of my readers no matter what your age. And if you’ve got any prejudices against John Green or young adult fiction, I urge you to set those aside and give Looking for Alaska a whirl.
Never stop reading, and look out for my next review!