08 June 2011

2 A.M. Musings on Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

John Green

5 Stars

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

First Sentence:
The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party.


I am writing this at 2 a.m. Why? Because I've been lying awake in bed for hours, unable to sleep, thinking about Looking for Alaska. I finished reading it earlier today (well, yesterday, technically), but even now, every time I remember certain quotes and certain moments, I either cry or I laugh (mostly cry), because this is a deeply emotional book. I've never sobbed so much while reading, and yet at the end of it, I felt hopeful.

I think part of the reason Looking for Alaska has struck me so profoundly is that it's heartbreakingly real. I know how Miles (Pudge) feels when he looks at his life and feels a need for something more, something beyond the ordinary and mundane - the Great Perhaps. And then Alaska sweeps into his life and shows him the Great Perhaps, changing him forever. But then, what do you do when someone who has altered you like that is suddenly gone? Alaska is messed-up and gorgeous and moody and funny and mysterious and smart and self-destructive and it's impossible not to both love and hate her. And to think that someone like her is just gone - poof - is unthinkable. I've never had a friend of mine die, but reading this book, I was crying and I was angry and I felt that bittersweet ache of remembrance. I was there, right along with Pudge and the Colonel and Takumi and Lara as they laughed with Alaska and played pranks with her and started to understand her and got annoyed at her and then they were left reeling, because she simply wasn't there anymore, and the pain and frustration of that, of not even knowing if she meant to die but knowing that you could have stopped it, is all too real. But there is still hope. They can piece things together again; there will always be an Alaska-shaped hole in each of them, but they can learn to live with it. Forgiveness can happen. They can remember her and learn from her and never completely lose her. As Pudge says, "We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken."

This novel deals beautifully with themes of grief, loss, love, longing, guilt, regret, and moving on. I know that I won't ever forget it, and just like Pudge, I won't ever forget Alaska. And we can all make our way out of this labyrinth.

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