Saturday, August 10, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Posted by Ellie at 1:10 PM
Looking for Alaska by John Green
231 pages

Just gonna get right to it. I really didn't like this book. I suppose it's not all that weird, I've only read one other book of his, and even though I adored it, you're bound to not always love everything someone's written... Right? Well, either way, I couldn't stand Looking for Alaska.

Relatively short, less than 250 pages, Looking for Alaska is about some kid named Miles whose obsessed with dying words and is looking for his "great perhaps". So he decides to attend this boarding school in Alabama his dad had attended in his teenage years. From there he befriends his roommate "The Colonel" and his group of friends: Takumi, some Russian-or-Ukrainian-or-wherever-they-have-an-Eastern-European-accent (is it sad that I've already forgotten?) chick, and most importantly: Alaska. Who is the biggest problem of this novel. And it's a short novel, so if your title character is the biggest problem, then you're in for it.

Looking for Alaska is shallow, vapid, dirty, and depressing. I read it in one sitting, but I still had trouble stomaching it at times. That's mostly personal preference, though, because I hate gratuitous pervertedness in books. I can handle depressing books. If I'm attached, I will cry. A lot. If not, I will probably cry anyway just because of the injustice against humanity. I didn't shed one tear, or even tear up at all while reading LfA, and, though I'd like to avoid spoilers, it deals with some very heavy and sad subject matter.

Anyway, the book's biggest problem (as stated previously) is Alaska. It's not so much a problem with her, but more about her. You see, she's not a person. Yes, I know she's fictional and therefore not real, but I mean she is literally the defining image of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. She is not a fleshed out person, she's an ideal. She's so mysterious, she's so intriguing. She's sexy, funny, crazy, spontaneous, moody, alluring. But here's the thing: she's not. She has all these traits, but isn't any of them: they are her. Alaska isn't a person, she's a trope. And maybe that's the point, maybe Alaska isn't meant to be seen as a person but a metaphor. Alaska is very obviously stated by Miles as his "great perhaps", and is not treated by him like he would treat another person, but as he would treat a goal. But that's my problem. You can't write a novel about PEOPLE and make one of the people nothing more than a metaphor. I mean, you can, nobody is stopping you, but that doesn't mean I, personally, will enjoy it.

Miles is another big problem in the book, perhaps bigger. He's an ass. And maybe all teenage boys are, but I don't want to read about normal teenage boys. I want to read about people who are more than. People who have life in them, who think and feel and know and dream and believe and try and care. I don't want to read about normal, pretentious, shallow asshats who just know that they're better than those old boring people who he used to be sort-of friends with. I don't. Maybe it adds "realism" to the book. Maybe it doesn't. Doesn't mean it's anymore enjoyable to read about.

Miles didn't see Alaska as a person, he saw her as an object. To be coveted after, lusted after. He was mystified by her, seduced by her. Do you really think, for one measly second, that if Alaska had been ugly ANYONE would have even put up with her batshit moodswings and reckless behavior? Much less found her the pinnacle of all female beauty. Everyone was in love with Alaska, but no one loved her. Everyone wanted her, but no one cared about her. I suppose it's fitting. How can you care about a metaphor?

I suppose the ending is supposed to signify Miles's growth, but I really couldn't see it. For a novel with what is supposedly such a deep and powerful meaning, it didn't feel any different for me than your average contemp YA fare.

I liked some things about the book. I liked Colonel and his mom. I liked Takumi up until he admitted he too was in love with Alaska, just like everybody else. The writing is excellent, and it really does draw you in and makes sure you don't want to put it down. I love John Green a lot and I love nerdfighteria, so I don't want this review to make it seem like I'm just hating on it needlessly. I know a lot of people are enamored with this book, so if you like it, great! I'm glad you enjoy it, really. I just don't think it was the book for me. Maybe this book's meaning just went over my head. If you have anymore insight on it, leave a comment and I will be glad to listen to different opinions! I'm still going to keep trying with John Green's other books, as I loved TFiOS too much to give up just yet. 

Thanks for reading and stopping by! I hope I was able to offer some useful input.

~ Ellie


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