Book Review #39: Looking For Alaska by John Green

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.

Before I move forward with this review, I do realise that this novel has the definition of a “manic pixie dream girl.” With that being said, however, Looking For Alaska does paint a portrait of a complicated love interest if even that.

Miles, or “Pudge,” seems to fall flat as our main character and narrator; I could count on one hand the intriguing things about him. Pudge, who is supposed to be our main focal point, transcends into this narrator being.  I usually forget he is there most of the time while reading until he decides to say something. Forgettable is not a word I like to associate with the main character. Almost everything even remotely interesting happened around Pudge, whose personality was as dull as an unsharpened pencil.

I found some of the other characters a lot more interesting and developed, like the Colonel. I honestly wished Alaska had been more fleshed out. Other characters that gained importance towards the end, like Takumi, I wish were more developed as well.

Looking For Alaska was separated into two parts, “Before” and “After,” which was then separated into small chapters detailing the days before and after. Only for a moment, the novel had me wondering what pivotal event happened in between with that structural set-up.

The plot overall had just enough engagement to keep me reading. At the end, I was left wondering… what was the point? The pivotal event in the story occurred for a bunch of men (okay, as well as one other minor female character) to achieve a coming-of-age growth and confirming the prior mention of a manic pixie dream girl premise.

Although given this trope, Looking For Alaska did have some good things to say and I didn’t outright hate it.  I even saw some quotes I want to go back and underline if I find the time. However, I can’t really justify giving it a higher rating. My enjoyment was at about a constant three stars for the entire thing so I guess it has consistency? I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t woke enough to understand the literary references?

Looking For Alaska, in short, had its moments where it could have been great, and there was some floppy character development. I’m not sure what this book was trying to say, essentially. Was it that Pudge had turned the thought of Alaska into something almost mythical, a being that was perfectly unperfect when really she was just as fucked up as anyone else? Maybe I need to chew on this book for a while.

 

star-rating-three
Three Stars!

 

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