Here on whatfifound we like books. Today I’ve got my first ever review for you chaps. It’s on a YA novel that I’m sure a few of you have heard of…
I actually found this review on the ‘draft’ bit of an old blog I had back on blogger back when I was 15 and was amored by mint green, Paramore and boys with scene hair. It was an interesting time for me as you can probably glean from that alone. I’m going to be typing furiously to write some new reviews for you but I’d thought I’d let the world see this one first.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
‘ I would always love Alaska Young, my crooked neighbor, with all my crooked heart’
The novel follows Pudge; an American teenage boy who like many of us isn’t the most popular in High School and really is just a bit fed up of the whole ordeal. Everything changes when he transfers to his Dads old boarding Culvier Creek where he meets a bunch of pretty different new friends; The Cournel and Tamauki and the feisty, un-readable and vanilla-scented Alaska. Pudge has to wade though pranks, loyalty, brilliant religion teachers, falling in love, bufriedos, smoking, a deadly flamingo, last words and an eagle-eyed head teacher…but will he make it out of the labyrinth intact?
Ok, I’ll be honest with you, when I started reading Looking for Alaska I really wasn’t that impressed. It seemed like every other teenage angst-ridden young adult novel. Boy is a loser. Boy goes to new highschool. Boy falls in love with complicated super gorgeous intelligent girl-whom every one is after. Boy become rebel (ish). Boy gets girl. Everything is awesome.
I was wrong. I hold my hands up. Looking for Alaska is really the kinda of novel which you fall in love with without even realising. You just get so used to Pudge, who by the way, has a talent for remembering last words, which I thought was pretty cool. Did you know for instance that JFK’s last words before he was assassinated were “That’s obvious”?
You emphasise with all this crazy stuff he feels and thinks and how massive everything feels for him. But most of all the whole time he muses over the last words Alaska introduced him to: “Damn it. How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!”. Wow, Green was edging into philosophical territory here. This was the point a seed of hope grew, perhaps there was more to Green’s writing than I was giving him credit for.
My favourite character though has to be Alaska. At times I don’t like her much. That might seem odd but that’s in some ways what makes her such a great character. She knows she’s not perfect; she likes sex, drinking, cigarettes, annoying authority figures and I suspect, being right. But she has so much fire in her belly, which I admire; she a committed feminist and she’s intelligent; she lives in a library of books. We all could do will just a fraction of the passion that Alaska Young has.
One of the reasons I began to enjoy Looking for Alaska so much (although at first I fought enjoying it so much!) was how silly yet real it was. I could envisage my friends and I dubbing fried burritos ‘bufriedos’ and referring to the intense, yet oddly brilliant, religion teacher as the ‘Old man’ and even getting our own back if someone pranked us (it’s all in the blue dye, take note students, this could be important one day).
All this makes it mighty hard when you get to the tragedy of the novel. Boy, was that a shocker. You sort of know it’s coming, but once it actually does you find your self there with the characters wishing this truth away and trying to figure out how it all went so wrong. Don’t worry I won’t ruin it for you! But the death in the novel really makes it in a way you won’t understand until you read it for yourself. The novel is split into two sections ‘before’ and ‘after’ aforementioned tragedy and that adds to the grief of it all so poignantly (ohh fancy word there!), I think Mr Green might just be a genius.
While you may figure out the big twist at the end (I did, haha!) it doesn’t make it any the less devastating. And you’ll realise that what on the surface appears to be a love story is much more than that. It’s about life.
I’m not saying this is the ‘deepest’ novel I’ve ever read if you’re looking for something that will provide an epiphany on culture, religion and the universe this probably won’t be it. But it is definitely more complex and thought-provoking that it first appears.
This isn’t only a novel about young love and all the tiny emotions that ride on the wave that is falling in love. It’s a novel about curiosity, friendship, loyalty and most importantly learning the art of forgiveness. We all make it out of the labyrinth of life, one day.
Looking for Alaska? 3.5 Stars and perhaps a custard cream.