Looking for Alaska
By John Green
(Speak, Paperback, 9780142402511, 2006, 256pp.)
The Short of It:
Highly praised, yet failed to deliver in the end.
The Rest of It:
I recently reviewed Green’s latest book, and loved it, so when I saw this one at the library, I immediately snatched it up.
Miles moves from Florida to Alabama to attend Culver Creek Preparatory School. There, he meets his roommate “The Colonel” also known as Chip Martin. Miles wasn’t all that popular at his previous school, in fact…no one really knew he existed so when Chip shows an interest in him, he eases into the friendship knowing that it could disintegrate at any moment. After their brief introduction and receiving the nickname of Pudge (even though Miles is skinny as a rail), Miles is introduced to Alaska Young.
Alaska is witty and beautiful and different from the girls back home but she is also taken. Her college boyfriend is mentioned numerous times but is never seen. This mysterious air is what attracts Miles to her, but it’s also what frustrates him most. Especially when she goes missing and he and Chip are left to figure out what happened.
The story is broken up into two parts, before and after with before being the events leading up to her disappearance, and after, the events that followed it. As a reader, I knew right away that something was going to happen, but I had no idea what. With each chapter breaking it down even further (2 months before, 28 days after, etc), which worked to a degree as I certainly felt the tension build, the end result was not what I had hoped for. The ending left a lot of questions unanswered and to be honest with you, this pissed me off. The structure begs for resolution. You cannot lead a reader down the before/after path and not give them something in return!
My reaction to the ending, affected my overall enjoyment of the book itself. Putting the ending aside, I will say that I enjoyed the dialogue between the characters and the development of Miles over time. He is a likable character and his interactions with the other characters were often entertaining if not, enjoyable. Scores of readers have praised the book for its emotional punch so perhaps its magic was lost on me. After all, I am not a young teen by any stretch of the imagination and that is what this book is geared towards even with its numerous mentions of alcohol and sex.
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