Saturday, July 26, 2008

Looking For Alaska by John Green

I'm warning you now that this may just be a horrible review because it's hard to find words to describe this book. Partly because it was just amazing and partly because I don't want to give anything away. This one will certainly make my top 10 list of the year though. I put Looking for Alaska on my wishlist awhile back but I instantly went and checked it out from the library after reading Nymeth's amazing review where she compared it somewhat to The Virgin Suicides. I can certainly see where the resemblance comes from. Like The Virgin Suicides, this book brought to me a feeling of nostalgia for days past, for a time that's come and gone, and for a time that may have never existed but a time that you still miss. The book is full of feelings of melancholy, hazy summer days, teenage firsts, love, loss, sorrow, and searching. Green's characters are fully three dimensional and believable and I feel like I've known somebody just like each of his characters. As I said, there's not much that I can say of the actual story, but I'll tell you what I can. The book is split into two sections: "before" and "after", so you know from the beginning that something big is going to happen somewhere in the middle. The section headings count down "128 days before" and so on...Our narrator is Miles, a young man from Florida who has had problems at his school and has never had many friends and is going to live at a boarding school in Alabama. Miles has always had a fascination with people's last words. His favorite being the last words of Francois Rabelais, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps". Miles arrives at the boarding school and quickly makes friends with a group of people who introduce him to the joys of teenage life and the bonds of friendship. One of the people is Alaska Young, a young girl who smokes, drinks, talks about sex, and loves to read. When hearing of Miles' (now called "Pudge" since he's so skinny) love for last words, she tells him about her favorite last words from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's book The General in His Labyrinth. Simon Bolivar says as he dies "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?" It is a question that follows throughout the book and it's a powerful question when you think of what it means. Like I said, not the best review, but trust me when I say that this is one of the best and most powerful books that I've read this year. I was hooked from page 1 through page 221 and I still wanted more. To anyone who's ever been a teenager, fallen in love, gone through hard times, crumbled and tried to pick up the pieces, you'll feel at one with Green's writing. It's magic what he does with a pen.

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