Thursday, January 05, 2006
Looking for Alaska
I know I am a little behind the times on talking about this book - we got our library copies in May, and it has been talked about on all of my listservs lately. It's on the library's mockPrintz list - go to www.tempe.gov/library/mock.htm if you want to see the other titles. We're voting on those January 17th, by the way.
Anyway, all of this to say that I just finished Looking for Alaska by John Green. I will say that books that have a school setting are some of my favorites (loved Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas, for example), so I had a feeling I would like this book from the beginning.
Miles Harter is a high school junior who doesn't really have any friends in his Florida town. When he is given the chance to go to Culver Creek, the Alabama boarding school where his father was a student, he jumps at it. Miles is fascinated with the last words of famous people, and one of his favorite last phrases comes from the French author Rabelais, who said "I go to seek a Great Perhaps". Miles wants to seek the Great Perhaps before he dies, so he's willing to try something new.
When he gets to Culver Creek, Miles is immediately submerged into a whole new world. He is welcomed into his roommate's group of friends, and begins to learn to subvert authority with them. He tries to experience as many things as possible in his effort to seek the Great Perhaps, including drinking, smoking and love. He begins to fall in love with the enigmatic (that's mysterious to you) Alaska Young, who is troubled and funny and a prankster of the highest degree. She is beautiful and fun to be around, and she makes Pudge (Miles' new nickname) feel happy to be with her - most of the time. Alaska is also moody and can be frustrating. Miles spends the whole novel looking for the true Alaska, and I'm not sure he ever knows her.
But this book isn't just about Pudge's love for Alaska. The book is split into two parts - Before and After. The before section counts down in days (seventy-six days before) and the after section counts forward in days (nine days after). It is in the event that splits the book that Pudge really begins to feel part of the Great Perhaps. And it isn't Alaska that he turns to for help, but his friends. This book has all of the quirky friends you could ever want, and it is really about celebrating those friendships.
I thought this book was really great - as I mentioned above, I am a big fan of school books (why didn't my parents let me go to boarding school???), and this book has all of the best and worst things about school. One of the pranks involves blue hair dye in someone's hair gel, and someone else has their shoes peed on. But it also has some of the other things I like in a good book - great friends and a little bit of love. I'd recommend it. But Karen and maybe Kristin, I know you ladies have read this book too - want to comment?? I'd like to hear what you think of it, and whether you think it might win the Printz.