This book review does not contain spoilers.
Before. Miles ‘Pudge’ Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and this obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the ‘Great Perhaps’ (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, 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, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same.
It’s no secret that I didn’t enjoy The Fault in Our Stars. But, by the time I realised that, I had already nabbed Looking for Alaska at a second-hand book sale. I steeled myself to read the book, fully expecting to grit my teeth through the entire thing and just get it over with.
Surprisingly, I didn’t mind Looking for Alaska. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever read. It didn’t strike any particular emotional chord with me, and it certainly didn’t turn me into a sobbing mess like many others who read the book. But I did like it a hell of a lot better than The Fault in Our Stars, possibly because of the narrator.
Hazel’s narration in The Fault in Our Stars felt heavy to me, like John Green was trying really hard to master the voice of a teenage girl and wasn’t really getting there. In Looking for Alaska, Miles’s voice seems entirely natural and comfortable. He’s whiny, he’s lustful, he’s confused, and he’s every bit the typical teenage boy I’ve known in my life.
In truth, Miles is pretty much the only character I care about in this book. The only other character I really liked was, strangely enough, Lara, who is a background character most of the time. Everyone else seems like caricatures and even Alaska, who is supposed to be utterly irresistible, is deeply uninteresting to me. I can understand Miles’s fascination with her, sure, but she reminds me more of a fourteen-year-old than a seventeen-year-old.
John Green works hard to keep life at the Culver Creek Boarding School interesting and, for the most part, he succeeds. Some of the pranks that are deemed genius come off as lacklustre and I found myself waiting a couple of times for the actual prank, only to realise it had happened a few pages before. But, in general, I found the plot flowed smoothly and logically.
Looking for Alaska did not blow my mind but it was an easy, mostly enjoyable read. Miles is an engaging and realistic narrator even if can be a bit of a pushover. I’m glad I gave John Green a second chance, as reading this book has definitely given me a better opinion of his writing style.