Review by Joe Taylor
LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green, 221pgs, $8.99 (Price varies at Amazon.com)
Miles Halter is an expert on famous last words. He’s also so intelligent that he has no friends and no hope of a love life. When he reads that the French poet Rabelais declares on his death bed “that he goes in search of the great perhaps” Miles decides to make a change.
He’s left the boredom of his life behind and has just arrived at Culver Creek Boarding School in hot and steamy southern Alabama. It isn’t long before he meets his math wiz roommate Chip, aka The Colonel, and is given the lay of the land: It’s them versus the Weekday warriors, a group of rich kids from Birmingham who look down on people like The Colonel and Miles who are smarter than they are and from homes of more modest means.
Miles whose led a pretty sheltered life and has promised his father not to fall in with the wrong crowd, soon does just that as The Colonel introduces him to the rest of his followers that includes the beautiful Alaska. She’s intelligent, experienced and dramatically self destructive. She’s also prankster in chief for their group. Miles is beguiled. He’s soon breaking all the school rules with his new friends as he attempts to maintain his grades while engaging in war against the Weekday Warriors. Life is good smoking cigarettes and drinking Strawberry Hill that Alaska’s buried in the woods away from the prying eyes of the Eagle, the schools headmaster. Miles has found his true home. And it’s all good fun until tragedy strikes Miles in his newly opened heart.
As fans of John Green’s books have come to expect, these pages are full of intelligent and somewhat angst filled teenagers who trade strong opinions on Ibsen and Marquez. They discuss why God grants some people sad lots in life all the while breaking into the dorm rooms of their enemies to fill the shampoo bottles with blue hair dyes.
While the book is well written, it’s a story that’s been told before, with young friends and death and healing. For more experienced readers, the characters and their antics may seem to offer little that’s profoundly moving or soul provoking. Younger readers however will be dazzled by John Greens electric use of language and depiction of a world that possibly awaits them whether at boarding school or a University miles away from home. It’s a fun read and John Green’s breadth of cultural knowledge from the lowest to the highest forms provides some things we bet you won’t know. Yaroos! gives this book 4.5 Stars out of 5 Stars.