I’ve been trying to space out my John Green books so I don’t get too tired of his writing style, and a year after reading THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, I decided to give his debut, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, a try. I half-read it, half-listened to the audiobook of it, so consider this a review of both versions.

LOOKING FOR ALAKSA is the story of Miles “Pudge” Halter, who leaves his small-town life in Florida for Culver Creek Boarding School in central Alabama. He meets a unique cast of characters there: The Colonel, his short, genius roommate; Takumi, the Japanese hip-hop artist; Lara the pretty Romanian girl, and Alaska Young, the most beautiful, headstrong girl he’s ever laid eyes on. Pudge’s relationships with this band of misfits end up shaping the course of life and his perceptions more than he could have ever imagined.

It’s hard to read LOOKING FOR ALASKA without comparing it to TFIOS; the writing, dry humor and quirkiness is there in both. But ALASKA did not grab me the same way TFIOS did. It did not wrench my heart out of my chest and make me cry when reading it on the stairclimber at the gym. It entertained me, it made me laugh, but it did not leave 1/10th of the impact on me that THE FAULT IN OUR STARS did.

The thing Green and ALASKA do best is realistically portray the effects of death and grief on young people, people who are too young to lose a friend, but lose one anyway. The way Green structures the novel into “before” and “after” the loss is brilliant, as anyone who has lost someone knows the way life can suddenly become irrevocably divided between the before and the after.

ALASKA is definitely an essential read for all nerdfighters and Green fans out there, but it is not the first Green book I would recommend, nor the first YA on my list of recommendations. But it is still well-crafted and skillfully plotted, and a good choice for anyone seeking their own Great Perhaps.


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