Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 7 hours and 11 minutes (221 pages)
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: September 21, 2006
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Audiobook from Audible.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
I have read all of John Green’s other books and have had Looking for Alaska forever to read. So, I was excited to finally read it. To be honest it wasn’t my favorite John Green book (that honor goes to The Fault in Our Stars, followed by Paper Towns, followed by Will Grayson Will Grayson). However, it was still a very good read.
I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was very well done. All the characters voices were easy to distinguish and emotions were portrayed really well too.
Miles Halter is a high school student who is obsessed by last words, he loves to read biographies about authors more than he likes reading the books written by them. Miles’ big issue is that his whole life has been a bit lot of nothing, he has no friends, no goals. Miles decides that transferring to Culver Creek Boarding School will change all that. And it does. He meets his crazy chain-smoking roommate known as The Colonel. The Colonel introduces him to the funny, beautiful, smart, and slightly insane Alaska Young. Between Alaska and the Colonel, Miles (who is nicknames Pudge in irony of his wiriness) has a decidedly not boring school year.
This was a very well done contemporary YA book. That is basically a coming of age story that deals with issues of teen drinking/smoking, grief, suicide, and sexuality. After reading all of John Green’s books and then reading this one you can tell that this was his debut novel. It’s a really good book, but it is a little rough around the edges at points.
I loved all of the literary quotes throughout. I also really enjoyed Pudge’s/Mile’s obsession with people’s last words. My favorite parts of the story were the pranks the kids pull. There are some pretty darn hilarious pranks in here that had me laughing out loud.
I know there was a lot of controversy over this book when it was released and it was banned in some states/schools. While I hate the idea of banning books, I can understand why people got a little worked up. There is an absolute crapload of drinking, smoking, and sex in this book.
All the kids seem to do well at their classes, this is a group of very smart kids we are reading about here. However they also chain-smoke and drink until they pass out….a lot. At times I would think…”geez high school wasn’t like this when I was in it” or I would think…”Wow is that what boarding school is really like?” I think the behavior in here is pretty extreme for high schoolers. Additionally there are some explicit oral sex scenes and Alaska is absolutely sex-obsessed.
So being completely honest here…reading about people smoking themselves sick, finding new ways to smoke and get away with it, and drinking until they puke really isn’t my thing. Yes there is a lot more to the story than that, but there was also a lot of drinking/smoking.
There is a lot of serious meat to the story as well. This is pretty much Miles’ coming of age story. However, all the characters deal with issues of grief and fitting in. There are a lot of family issues woven into the story (poverty, parents dying). There is also a lot of discussion about suicide and guilt. Ultimately the story is about the painful path that we call life and how to navigate it. This is a very engaging book and it absolutely pulls the reader in. It was hard to stop reading.
Overall a very good coming of age story about teens dealing with fitting in and grief/guilt. To those who don’t like reading about a lot of drinking/smoking/puking I might recommend reading one of John Green’s other amazing books. If you can get past all of that though this is a very entertaining, engaging and thoughtful book about finding your path in life and dealing with the trials you have to survive to get there.