Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
I was originally introduced to John Green not through his young adult literature, but through his Fifa videos on Youtube. I’ve very glad to have followed the Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers from their meager beginnings in League 1 to their eventual success in the Premier League. I highly recommend giving his Fifa videos a watch if you are into soccer or LPs in general.
Looking for Alaska is a great young adult novel. Our protagonist, Miles Halter, is a high school student that has a fascination with famous last words. The last words of François Rabelais, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”, are significant to Miles and the plot of the novel. These words inspire Miles to step away from his familiar, comfortable life at home and school and seek something greater out of life. He decides to attend the same boarding school his father did and that’s really where the story begins. To keep this from being a plot summary I’ll just summarize by saying that the rest of the book takes place at the aforementioned boarding school.
Having gone to boarding school myself, I was extremely impressed by how accurate John Green’s depictions about boarding school life were. Well, John Green is speaking from experience. He attended boarding school in Alabama, so I assume the plot of the book is pretty heavily influenced by his time there.
One of the first things readers will notice about Looking for Alaska are the names of the chapters. No “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 2”, etc. here. The book is split into two segments, a “before” and an “after”. The before takes up the first half of the book, the after takes up the second half. Once you figure that out it makes the book hard to put down as you know that something big is coming as the days decrement through the first half of the book.
Otherwise, this book seems to be a John Green novel. That’s neither an insult or a compliment. I’ve read a few books by him now and they all have a similar pace and feel.
Verdict - If you are a fan of John Green, give it a read. If you don’t like John Green’s writing, you won’t like this book. On the fence? At least give it a chance if the summary sounds interesting. You may end up pleasantly surprised.