Friday, 1 April 2011

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska
by John Green

New UK cover released: March 31st 2011

Summary: Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words - and tired of his safe, boring and rather lonely life at home. He leaves for boarding school filled with cautious optimism, 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.

This was actually the first book I ever reviewed on this blog a few years ago, but that review sucked and I figured that now is a good time to re-review it seeing as it has just gotten a brand new UK cover. Actually, I think this may have been the book that made me make a book blog in the first place - I wanted somewhere to talk about just books, and this was the first.

This book is one of my all time favourite books and it made John Green one of my all time favourite authors. When I own more than one copy of a book, I usually give my extra copies away...I own three different copies of Looking for Alaska and I can't seem to part with any of them, I love the book that much. I've lost count of the amount of people I have forced into reading it (and they've all loved it as much as I have).

John Green has such an amazing way with words and he manages to take relatively simple stories and turn them into something epic.

This book? A nerdy kid goes to boarding school, he makes friends, he meets a girl, they pull pranks and all sorts of other shenanigans's not exactly the height of originality, is it? But somehow John Green managed to make it original and make it brilliant, just with the way he strings words together and the characters he creates. He just makes his stories...more.

The characters are very realistic, I could easily see some of my friends in their places and I wished the characters were real so that I could be friends with them. I loved Pudge and Alaska and all of their friends and I could relate to each of them in different ways.

This was one of the first YA books I remember reading. I stumbled across it by accident after seeing a roleplay page on Myspace for a girl named Alaska Young - awesome name, it made me want to know more so I read the book. And I still remember having to stop reading because it had me laughing so hard and then a little later, I had to stop reading again because I was bawling my eyes out. I reread it the very next day after finishing it, something I almost never do.

The book made me smile. It made me cry. It broke my heart and it put it back together again. It inspired me (and I'm not alone in that, I've seen so much fan art created for this book - people have even written songs about it - not many contemporary YA novels do that).

Books that don't shy away from things like teenagers thinking about sex and drinking aren't too uncommon now, but back when I read this, it was the only book I read that painted the teenagers realistically in those ways. I remember book banners getting outraged at the sexual content in the book, even though it was just realistic and it was far from being erotic - honestly, it was awkward and funny, the way it often is in real life at that age. Sex happens, drinking happens, swearing happens...I'm not sure why some people want to censor that so much in literature and I'm so glad that John Green doesn't.

Years later, there are still quotes with the book that stuck with me. A few examples:

"The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive."

"Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. (...) You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you'll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present."

"So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane."

I know a lot of people consider Paper Towns their favourite John Green book, and I absolutely loved Paper Towns too, but for me, Looking for Alaska will always be my favourite. Because it was the book that introduced me to John Green in the first place and now I will buy any book he releases, because I have such faith in his ability to string words together in a way that makes something magic. He writes the kind of books that make people fall in love with reading and I wish I could write even half as well as he does.

And I guess that is enough John Green/Looking for Alaska fangirling for one review. If you haven't read it yet, then you should.



  1. Ooh, I love the new UK cover! So pretty.
    Looking For Alaska is the only John Green book I haven't read. From the way you describe it, I seriously need to read it!

  2. Haven't read any John Green yet, but you're the second person who has gushed about LOOKING FOR ALASKA today. I think it's a sign! ;)

    Btw, you guys do great reviews.

  3. I totally understand why there is so much hype surrounding this book and why it is being taught in high school English classes as we speak. It was a completely unforgettable read!!

    - Alyssa of Redhead Heroines
    Book Review of “Looking for Alaska” by John Green

  4. You probably know this already, but if you love John Green, you should check out the youtube channel he has with his brother Hank: vlogbrothers.

    This was the first John Green book that I read and I thought it was fantastic! Your review is really good too: informative without spoiling anything. Good job! :)

    1. Yeah, I actually first read Looking for Alaska back in 2006 (it was the first one I read too, purely because it was his only book at that point) and stumbled across Johns youtube channel not long after, so I've been subscribed to the vlogbrothers pretty much since they started. :)



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