I’m a pretty big John Green fan; I’ve read, and currently own, all of his books. His best story, in my opinion, is his debut novel “Looking for Alaska”. I read this book about two years ago after reading Green’s more well-known book “The Fault in Our Stars”, which I liked, but it wasn’t the amazing ground-breaking, rom-com novel everyone made it out to be. Before “Looking for Alaska” takes a backseat to my feelings for “The Fault in Our Stars”, let’s get into the plot of the story.
The story centers around Miles Halter, who is the quintessential type of protagonist John Green loves to write. He’s a nerdy young man, who has been living a less-than-stellar life. Luckily for him, Miles is leaving for a boarding school in Alabama, where he hopes to find “The Great Perhaps,” an idea that derives from François Rabelais’ last words. Last words are a reoccurring gag and theme throughout the novel. He arrives at Culver Creek Preparatory High School, where he meets a number of different characters, all with strangely defined personalities almost as if they were characters from a sitcom like Friends. Most notably is the titular Alaska, a vibrant and rebellious girl who inevitably steals Miles’ heart. Throughout the story he goes on many adventures with these newfound friends, and it almost seems as though Miles has found his Great Perhaps. I won’t give anything else away.
As I have said before, I completely loved this story. I feel like Green really hit it out of the park with his first novel, and wrote a tale about a young man trying to find his place in the world, which was relatable to everyone who read it. This book didn’t really have the fast-paced plot like books I normally read, but with its great heart and sympathetic characters it easily keeps your attention. I apologize if this is ruins part of the book for you, but a lot of the story revolves around planning and executing pranks so I feel like that is comparable to the action of a dystopian society. It also has plenty of down time so the reader cares about the characters.
My opinions on the characters may seem a bit contradicting, but stay with me. I loved the people that Green wrote in the story, especially Miles. Miles reminded me a lot of Holden Caulfield from “The Catcher in the Rye”, but a bit more likable. (Yes, I know Holden Caulfield was written somewhat unlikable on purpose.) He had the same “I’m not entirely sure who I am” motivation, and I believe it was executed just as well as J.D. Salinger’s book, but went about it in a somewhat different manner. I would give a small complaint that Miles is almost exactly like Green’s other male protagonists from his later works - Colin from An Abundance of Katherines and Quentin from Paper Towns, who both fall in love with a spunky, vibrant girl - but Miles was the first one so I’ll just complain the other ones were a bit too much like Miles.
The supporting cast was full of colorful people. All of the characters seem to have their own little quirks, which are all pretty memorable, entertaining, and charming. However, as I said before, I also feel like the characters were a bit sitcom-y, and relied heavily on their exaggerated personalities than resembling actual people. I also feel like this could have been done on purpose to show how kids act in high school, a time when everyone is trying to find themselves and isn’t quite sure of who they want to be.
Overall, I absolutely loved Green’s first novel Looking for Alaska, so I greatly encourage anyone who is even remotely interesting to pick it up. People who are already fans of Green’s other works - like “The Fault in Our Stars” - would love this book. Also, readers who like “The Catcher in the Rye” will find this story to be reminiscent of Holden Caulfield’s.
Quick warning though this story does involve a few slightly inappropriate situations, and minors drinking alcohol as well as smoking cigarettes.