Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska (2005) (HarperCollins Children's Books)
John Green
Grade: B
Genre: young adult
Source: own
Young adult RBC 2014: A book set in high school 

When Miles Halter decides to leave his family and public school in Florida and set off for boarding school, he’s not leaving anything terrible important behind. His parents might miss their only child, but he’s got no friends and being a compulsive auto-/biography reader, Miles is compelled to seek out his ‘Great Perhaps’ in the words of François Rabelais. At Culver Creek, Miles find a loyal friend in his roommate Chip, otherwise known as ‘the Colonel’, who insists on giving Miles his own nickname of ‘Pudge.’ Miles is blown away by the sexy, vivacious, funny and self-destructive Alaska Young, who, like the Colonel, adopts Miles and puts him under her wing. Amid school pranks, failing pre-calc and his search for his ‘Great Perhaps, Alaska draws Pudge into her quest to find a way out of her labyrinth of suffering, introducing him to her unique perspectives on life in the process.

I kid you not, I started reading LFA in December of 2008; LFA became one of those books which I start and are usually doomed into the fate of never-finished. It has been gathering dust on my bookshelf until a few nights ago when I had been bemoaning my lack of reading material for my commute to work the next day, when my sister suddenly turned around and told me that I had to read a book with a title beginning with ‘L’. I’m already starting to struggle with my Reading Book Challenges in trying to fit each completed read neatly into the categories I have left – I’m having to get quite creative with my RBC 2014 categorising. So, the thought of a challenge within an already pressing challenge was thrilling. At first glance, finding a title beginning with ‘L’ and without ‘A’ or ‘The’ preceding it wasn’t easy, as I had also already read about half my potential options, but what a perfect chance it was to finish one of my unfinished books.

LFA was Green’s first book and since 2005, he’s been a young adult author constantly simmering in the background, always on the cusp of making it big. However, it wasn’t until this year when The Fault in our Stars hit the big screen did that manage to happen. To quote The Bookseller, TFIOS has been a bestseller in every territory in which the Nielsen Bookscan operates, with around 1 million copies sold across both versions in the UK, to date. As part of the knock-on effect, all his other titles have been doing well, though LFA remains the only Green title I’ve read, to date. LFA was just as good and self-reflective as I thought and heard it would be, and so I can’t wait to discover the rest.

Alaska Young is the sort of girl at school who flaunts all the rules yet still manages to walk away unscathed most of the time. She’s the one you marvel at for her audacity and wish you had her guts, yet would never even dream of daring half the stunts she pulls. Miles is enchanted from the outset, worshipping the ground she walks on and completely blind to her faults. From Alaska, Miles learns and does more than he ever expects in what he doesn’t realise will be the greatest and most enjoyable lesson of his life.

I did guess what was going to happen, but that didn’t make the story any less enjoyable as there was still a mystery to solve. Unexpectedly, there were some scenes of pure hilarity - it was all I could do not to laugh, though I'm sure I drew some funny looks as it is, what with my uncontrolled grinning. This is perfect for fans of David Levithan or Laurie Halse Anderson and if TFIOS is anything like LFA, I can understand why it’s been such a worldwide phenomenon. I won’t be joining the bandwagon soon (there’s too much I need to read first) but I’ll get there eventually.

Image courtesy of Book Depository.

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