Saturday, 5 May 2012
John GREEN (2005), Looking for Alaska, Harper Collins.
By Ainara Vasquez 2 A E.S.O
Miles Halter has never had many friends and has always been fascinated with people’s biographies and their last words. He leaves his home for boarding school searching for an adventure and a “Great Perhaps”, but what he does not expect is Alaska Young. She is gorgeous, clever, funny and fascinating; Miles could not be more captivated by her. But when tragedy strikes, Miles discovers the value and the pain of living and loving unconditionally.
Miles Halter: He is a shy, nerdy, sixteen year old who is a bit bland and bored, and therefore moves into a boarding school searching for a “Great Perhaps”. He has an unusual interest with the last words of famous historical people and has never really had any friends. When he moves into his new boarding school, Culver Creek, he meets his roommate who people call “The Colonel” and he introduces him to his friends Takumi and Alaska Young. They are the cool and rebellious people at school and therefore, Miles alters his personality to fit in. The book is divided into two parts: “Before” and “After” referring to before and after the occurrence of the tragedy. On the “before” part we see how Miles begins to engage more with people, he takes more risks and he begins to have more fun and enjoy himself more. He also develops a fascination for his friend Alaska and often fantasises about having a relationship with her. On the “After” part of the book, Miles becomes numb and withdrawn, as he develops and obsession with finding out the answers to why the tragedy occurred.
Alaska Young: She is impulsive, good-looking, flirty, rebellious, witty, moody and very mysterious. Miles quickly develops and attraction towards her and Alaska leaves him feeling confused as she is constantly flirting with him although she has a boyfriend. Despite the fact that Alaska is brutally honest and can be seen as a tough girl, she has many personal problems and insecurities which she prefers to bottle up instead of talking openly about. She is also deeply philosophical as she is constantly trying to find the right answers about where her life will lead her. Throughout the book we get to see Alaska’s more sensitive side and slowly we begin to find out more about her past and why she is the way she is. Even when the tragedy strikes and Alaska is no longer there, her presence is still felt by all her friends and that is when you realise how, despite her complicated personality, she was extremely important to all her friends and they struggle a lot without her, and therefore seek some answers.
Some of the themes this book deals with are: the meaning of life, religion, love, friendship, trying to feel like you belong, death, grief and healing.
One of the parts I found most interesting about this book is when Alaska walks into the room, and sits next to Miles sobbing for no apparent reason. She says that although nothing in particular has happened to her there are still moments when she feels extremely sad, lonely and like everything is “screwed up”. This is during the time of Christmas holidays, and she says that she always gets sentimental at this time because she has nowhere to go to. This leads Miles to tell her that “that’s not true, you’ve got a family. And no matter what problems you have with them it’s still a family.” To which, Alaska responds by saying: “Yeah, kinda. I guess.” I found this part of the book very interesting because before this Alaska is portrayed as a very tough and rebellious person, which leads you to think that she is confident and has no real problems. Here, she shows vulnerability, and you become intrigued to find out who the real Alaska Young is.
I would recommend this book to people aged 14 or over, although, because of some of the scenes and themes it may be a bit too strong for some 14 year olds. However, I think this is a book teenagers could learn a lot from, as it makes you reflect about life, yourself and others, and what events have shaped who you or other people are. It also shows you the values of love and friendship and makes you appreciate them a lot more.