Looking for Alaska

First half

When I walked into a local Barnes & Noble, Looking for Alaska was shoved into my face as one of the best reads for people my age. I reluctantly chose it as it was a little out of my genre, but accepted due to all the glowing recommendations it received from the staff. Yet, halfway through, I can’t help but feel that my experience with the book is nothing short of underwhelming.

John Green’s novel follows Miles Halter, or “Pudge” to his friends, who leaves his comfortable life in Florida in search of something more exciting. Pudge moves to Alabama alone, and attends a boarding school where he meets an oh-so-charming Alaska, who is supposed to be a charismatic, beguiling character. However, the reader isn’t shown any background on her until much later, depicting her as a cheating, smoking, drinking, and hypersexualized person, but it’s all good because she’s beautiful.

One could argue that this book has all the makings to establish a meaningful statement on the hardships of teenage years, but so far, the book hasn’t used any of its potential to make any sort of message at all. Instead of using the innocent main character to relate to the readers and communicate an important message, Pudge happily becomes a smoker and an alcoholic, and shows no signs of regret. All the characters in the book cannot be more of a teenage stereotype, being bad influences on one another as well as the reader. This book has all the basis to become meaningful, but so far has struck out.
I sincerely hope that John Green can provide some significance in the second half of the book, as the first part of Looking for Alaska has been slow and shallow. It attempts to touch on important themes, but all is does is encourage stereotypes. However, as I had mentioned, this book does have the makings to become an influential novel, and I look forward to finishing the second half.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Looking for Alaska

  1. dalialiu

    Second half
    Spoiler alert

    I’ve heard many people rave on and on about this book, but frankly, I am definitely not one of them. Claiming to be the kind of oh-so-amazing-and-relevant-to-the-teenage-mind type of books, I feel that it definitely missed the mark.

    First off, all the characters are the epitome of teenage stereotypes: alcoholics, drinkers, smokers, cheaters, etc. While that could certainly be the recipe for a life-changing novel, the characters in this novel seemed to be static. Alaska, the mysterious and supposedly charismatic character that the main characters of the book revolve around, is killed in a car crash at the very beginning of the novel. She, under the influence of alcohol and in a frantic state when she left, was tragically killed in a car crash that may or may not have been a suicide. Pudge, the main character, and the rest of his friends spend the second half trying to figure out Alaska’s mindset.

    While this book does touch on some very important themes, such as loss, peer pressure, academic pressure, alcoholism, smoking, and suicide, none of the themes are handled in a way that truly conveys its significance. As I had mentioned in my previous post, there was potential for this book to be among The Chosen or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Through Alaska’s death, I believed that John Green would finally use his characters to craft a relevant, significant message about drinking and suicide. But, when Pudge and his friends are on the journey to solve the mysteries around Alaska, they act disregarding of how alcohol was a major factor in her car crash.

    In addition, the big reveal of the reason behind Alaska’s frantic state that lead to her death could have created another impressionable lesson, but again, misses the mark. Alaska’s character was established early on to be mysterious and self-destructive, and I thought that she was the perfect vessel to relay a message to the readers. However, after the reveal that her death was caused by being frantic after forgetting the anniversary of her mother’s (due to drinking all day and not being herself), the characters just keep on drinking and do not acknowledge that alcohol, the root of their problems, is in fact the root of their problems. They just keep on drinking and somehow, their problems seem to be solved.

    Overall, I was disappointed by Looking for Alaska. I kept waiting for it to get better, but of course, it never did. (Not to mention that there are some very explicit scenes that I didn’t bother reading because it was disturbing and stereotypical). I would recommend reading a book with similar themes such as 13 Reasons Why, which is much more impactful and much less disturbing.

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