Saturday, January 26, 2013

John Green's Amazingly Epic Looking For Alaska

I had mentioned in my The Fault in Our Stars post about being a little afraid that reading another John Green right after would be like rolling my heart through broken glass. I don't think I would have felt like that after reading Looking For Alaska but I think the lighter book in between was a little bit of a detox for me.

Okay, so 'detox' was the wrong word but The Fault in Our Stars left me so raw that I don't think I could have taken another life reflective heavy book right afterward without dissolving into a total mess. And Looking For Alaska definitely has that life reflective quality.

One of my younger sisters cites this as one of her favorite books ever. That alone is high praise but it still took me a while to get to it. I bought it ages ago and just haven't picked it up. I had planned to read it first but then the book club at work happened and it seemed more prudent to read The Fault in Our Stars first. But then I definitely wanted to read this one next.

My first impression of Looking for Alaska was that it reminded me a lot of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Except that I liked it a little bit better. Pudge was a little easier to relate to than Charlie. Pudge experiences things for the first time but instead of openly acting like he has no idea he tends to try to hide it and be casual about it, even if everyone else sees right through him. I think the biggest difference between the two of them is that he starts as a wallflowers and then blossoms in his own right. Alaska and the Colonel help him do that in a way that Sam and Patrick never do for Charlie.

I really loved Pudge. He is such an accurate depiction of a teenager who isn't sure how to relate but is determined to try. He tends to just run with whatever is happening but learns as the book goes on to speak up. And it's most notably in regards to Alaska that he feels like he has room to speak. And that's just so right for, pretty much, anyone with a crush on someone. You get so wrapped up in your feelings and the image you have of that person in your head that no one else could possibly understand. I loved that about him. And he has sarcasm and wit, which we all know I love.

The Colonel is another really great character. He easily could have been a caricature instead of a real person but Green never does that. Everyone is fleshed out and the Colonel has so much dimension. He takes the school's moral code seriously and is a planner to the extreme. He's funny and such a boy. But at the same time he has this attachment to the girlfriend he's always fighting with, whether because he really feels for her or because he feels like he can't be alone. But I also loved that he wasn't completely in love with Alaska. He might be one of the only characters who saw her for what she was. I loved him.

Alaska is a character that I didn't really understand completely but she has so much charisma that I could easily see why they would have all followed her to the ends of the Earth. She is the character that does all of the crazy things that someone like Pudge hadn't been able to conceive of. Alaska is just so wild and this strange mix of right there and completely unattainable.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the relationship between Pudge and Alaska. I think that unrequited crush that's more on someone you've made up in your head is just perfectly rendered. The infamous rain quote is the perfect way to describe it. That feeling that the person you like is so much more than you. They can do so much more. They possess all of those traits that you don't and maybe if you are around them enough you'll be a little more like them. He is so in love with this idea of her that it pretty much consumes him. And it's so special to him and so unique in his head that no one could understand. Then comes the shock that he didn't understand her as much as he thought and this girl that he was in love with was a myth. It's perfect.

I think reading this after The Fault in Our Stars was really interesting because they're like opposing examples of relationships. I feel like Hazel and Augustus knew each other so well and were so perfectly matched, down to their souls even. But Pudge is in love with the idea of Alaska and everything that his mental Alaska embodies. Augustus wants Hazel to see everything that he is and Alaska likes being an enigma.

I really think Looking For Alaska captures what it means to be a teenager and how we relate to one another and can be changed by one another. But I think that what it has to say goes beyond just something that teens can relate to. There's a lot about really seeing each other. But is a more subtle way than Paper Towns.

And in terms of my comparison to Perks of Being a Wallflower I think, even with Alaska's death, that Perks somehow manages to be so much sadder. It's because Pudge grows into himself. He learns about himself and who he is and just generally from his experience with Alaska. I don't feel like Charlie is any better off. He seems scarred from his experiences with Patrick and Sam. Perks was just lacking that essential teenage snark that Alaska has.

Overall I give Looking For Alaska a rating of: Massively Epic.

How did you ducks feel about Looking For Alaska? Do you think it does a good job with Teenage life?

I am almost done with Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. Which is an awesome Middle Grade book coming out next month by Stephan Pastis. I'm not sure if that one will get two posts or not. Then my Asunder post will be up on Wednesday. And Hopefully I'll have my Susan Bloom competition work done and be back on top of Top Ten Tuesday.

Basically, what I'm saying is that I really hope to be around more again.


1 comment:

  1. Looking for Alaska was the first John Green novel I read. You're right, it's totally different from his other work but still totally awesome!