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Looking For Alaska by John Green

June 22, 2011

“In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and sunshine and vanilla and on that thin-mooned night I could see little more than her silhouette, but even in the dark, I could see her eyes – fierce emeralds. And not just beautiful, but hot too.”

BEFORE. Miles Halter’s whole life has been one big non-event until he starts at anything-but-boring Culver Creek Boarding School and meets Alaska Young. Gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, screwed up and utterly fascinating she pulls Miles into her world, launches him into a new life, and steals his heart. But when tragedy strikes, and Miles comes face-to-face with death he discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally.

AFTER: Nothing will ever be the same.

Poignant, funny, heartbreaking and compelling, this novel will stay with you forever.

Review

This is the first book I’ve read by John Green, which is pretty surprising considering he is a prizewinning author. I have to admit when I first received this from HarperCollins I completely judged this book by the cover. Even the blurb didn’t really pull me in. It all sounded too much like another typical teen romance novel, and the cover made it look just a bit too ‘girly’ for my tastes. However, I can now safely say I am kicking myself for not having read this sooner! There is certainly nothing ‘typical’ about John Green. This was one of the most original teen novels I’ve  read probably since Markus Zusak’s I Am The Messenger (which if you know me at all, you will know how much I loved that book!).

The thing that kept this story exciting has to be the creative assortment of characters. Miles decides to seek ‘the great perhaps’ by leaving his hometown and non-existent friends, for life at boarding school. Here he meets his roommate the Colonel, and the rather eccentric but very beautiful girl across the hall, Alaska Young.Alaskais everything his mother would probably hate – she smokes like a chimney and talks rather openly about her sex life. But toMiles,Alaskais a breath of fresh air. It’s fairly obvious from the beginning of the book thatAlaskahas lead a rather troubled life and her moods are often up and down and you’re never quite sure how she will react to anything. John Green has created some really unpredictable characters here, which is very refreshing in the YA genre today.

Miles has quite the obsession for knowing everyone’s famous last words which even John Green himself is said to have a passion for. You can’t help but feel like little parts of John are shining through Miles in the book, and that this may be a reflection of his own school days. There are some brilliant quotes, ones which will make you laugh out loud, but others that will certainly make you question your own life.

There are some definite older YA themes explored which won’t be suitable for younger readers. There is a lot of discussion on sex, drinking and taking drugs, as well as death and suicide. The whole novel is split up into a Before and After, and this works extremely well because you never know what’s in the middle until you get there. I certainly made a few guesses the closer I got, and although I turned out to be correct it didn’t spoil anything for me. John Green has such a brilliant way with words, and is so creative with his characters and plot lines that you will never guess everything that is going to happen. There are also some extremely hilarious moments in this novel that will have you laughing out loud, including some brilliant school pranks that make you remember just how great it is to be young and carefree.

I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a heart-warming, funny but very touching original story. It can easily be enjoyed by adults of any age as well as teens. This will definitely not be the only book I ever read by John Green, and I am very eager to read more of his work. I now feel particularly inspired to go and seek my own ‘great perhaps’…

Looking For Alaska is out now.  Thanks to HarperCollins for sending me a copy.

Rating: 

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