Monday, 14 June 2010
Review: Looking for Alaska
Review: In my time I have heard many many good things about John Green. In my time as a book blogger I've heard even more good things. So I bought a copy of Paper Towns off Amazon and borrowed Looking for Alaska from the library. And now I have finally got round to reading his books, how glad I am that I have.
This is one of those books that both boys and girls can read, but alas like many similar books the UK cover seems to look like it would appeal more to boys, which is a shame. Note to boys reading my blog: get the US cover instead, perhaps. I prefer the UK cover. It's pretty.
The book is split into two parts: "before" and "after". I won't say what event divides the two, but I had known what it was beforehand because somebody posted it on a review on Goodreads and didn't mark it as a Spoiler post. Grrr. Anyway, even though I sort of knew what was coming, the writing was so raw and tragic it didn't stop me feel like crying in an empty, devastated sort of way when The Event happened. I didn't, but only because my little sister was sat next to me playing on her Nintendo DS and would have mocked me ceaselessly, even though she weeps buckets at sentences like, "my brother died when I was two." before it moves onto another subject. Anyway, though she herself is a wet blanket, I wouldn't have heard the end of it I had cried. So, well, I didn't.
That said. We know something sinister is going on when Alaska says things like, "you all smoke for fun. I smoke to die." and "I may die young, but at least I'll die smart". And, in truth, I wonder if The Event would have come as such a shock to me even if I hadn't accidentally discovered it on the internet.
Looking for Alaska is one of those books where the characters are absolutely everything. You could keep the story and the writing but have different characters, and I bet it wouldn't be half good at it is with the cast of characters. They're quirky and cool, but with enough flaws and rough edges to keep them interesting. I think this is why sex-drugs-rock&roll Alaska is so compelling and mysterious: not just to Miles, a.k.a Pudge, but to the reader as well. Her mood swings are confusing and strange, her personality equally intriguing: energetic one moment and slightly scary the next. I was sort of surprised at first-having read heaps of reviews, I was sort startled when the first thing she says as she appears in the book is recount to the Colonel how a boy she was with honked her boob. I was like, "oh. Um. Okay then."
I've read some bad reviews from adults who are all, "this book is BAD. They drink. They smoke. they drink drive. They have sex. Bad, bad BAD. Bleeeeeurgh." All I can say is, I don't care. It's not like they're the only teens in the world to do this things, so, well, get over it please.
Miles was a likeable protagonist. As I've said before, I read few books with male protagonists because I feel slightly alienated from them. But Miles seems real, like he was an animate object instead of words in a book. I loved that his main talent was memorising last words-how original is that?!
While their were moments of such fleeting weirdness and teenagedom, it's a very deep and philosophical book. It's full of the sort of sayings you might want to add to your favourite quotes if you have a Goodreads account (as every bookworm ought to). Actually, having read the book I proceeded to add about a squillion quotes from the book onto my page.
Random extra paragraph: While in Yorkshire over the weekend, my father and sister were in a labyrinth and I, having completed it, was stood outside talking to the man who had designed it, having a slightly intellectual debate about the philosophies behind mazes (yes this is going somewhere). I mentioned the last words that are at the centre of Looking for Alaska: "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?" The designer of the maze asked about it and then we had a long conversation about mazes and what they really mean.
Summary: emotionally draining whether you saw The Event coming or not, and an absolute must read for every teenager and adult. Rating: 4.5.