Took me a while, but I finally got around to reading John Green’s “Looking For Alaska”. This is a modern classic in Young Adult books, and it broke a lot of barriers regarding sex, drugs and profanity in teen fiction.
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (François Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy 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, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.
Author John Green is brilliant, and this story is tightly written – the boarding school setting is detailed and quirky, the teens all act realistically and each character is memorable and loveable, and the plot moves at a good pace with short chapters that focus on key moments and end as soon as that moment is done. It’s a short and fast story, with no words wasted.
What really made me love this story, though, is that is focuses on what’s really important.
A lot of stories that involve suicide focus on the grief, the emotional collapse and crumbling relationships that follows it. These are all good things to focus on, but they’re not the main issue.
That’s the main issue, the big problem, the all-consuming thought that follows suicide. Because you never know all the answers, all their thoughts, the reasons and the events that made it happen. You are left wishing you could see their last few moments, know their thoughts. You’re left piecing together the reasons because they never line up, there’s always missing moments, facts, questions. There’s always a why.
John Green’s “Looking for Alaska” captures this perfectly.