Publication date: May 31st, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Pages: 273, Kindle Edition
Links: Goodreads | Amazon India
First drink, first prank, first friend, first girl, last words… A poignant and moving crossover novel about making friends and growing up from American author, John Green. Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words – and tired of his safe, boring and rather lonely life at home. He leaves for boarding school filled with cautious optimism, to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps. Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another.
“But there’s so much to do: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on. I’ll have more time for reading when I’m old and boring.”
Four years ago:
Pooja Sathyanarayanan handed me a copy of ‘Looking for Alaska’ and told me, “This book will change your life.” Okay, that might not have been her exact words but it was something along those lines. She was insistent on how the book would fire up after the first half and I dragged my lazy ass through the first half. Stopped reading the damned thing, smack in the middle (because of exams maybe) and then I forgot about it. The reading progress of that novel stayed in my Goodreads profile for four years, rotting away in the ‘currently reading’ shelf.
Four years later:
Second Chance by Dr Sandeep Jatwa regenerated my reading spree three months ago and here I am. Finally, have managed to complete the other half of the book and I’ve never been more pleased with myself.
I’m still reeling from the impact of reading this book because I didn’t expect to fall in love with it in the end. Honestly, I jostled away any emotion I had for the characters until I reached the part which crumbles the reality they know and love. It was that moment when I realized that John Green is worth all the hype and praise. Singlehandedly, that plot twist was a punch to the gut. I didn’t even see it coming but my brain disagreed. Suddenly, I recalled a quote that exhibited a tell-tale sign of suicide.
“Y’all smoke to enjoy. I smoke to die.”
But in truth, that hardly qualifies as suicidal as it might’ve just been a joke. Clutching the phone to my chest, I repeated to myself that she is actually dead and it wasn’t a ruthless prank. I could only think about the pain she caused and how the characters surrounding her were affected by her death. I, on the other hand, couldn’t bring myself to care about her. I’ll tell you why.
Alaska Young is a self-centered, narcissistic, and self-destructive being. Her mood swings gave me a headache and Pudge wasn’t helping in the slightest degree. Treating her word like gospel and fawning over her vexing antics. Did I mention his unending fantasies about the pleasures of her flesh?!
“She jumped onto him and wrapped her legs around him (God forbid anyone ever does that to me, I thought. I’ll fall over)
“She taught me everything I knew about crawfish and kissing and pink wine and poetry.”
The irrationality of her death shakes up the gang and how they had easily placed her on a pedestal. There was a certain enigma to it and you grope for reasons behind the suicide (If you could call it one). After all, she was famous for her reputation for being a selfish bitch amongst the circle (The colonel’s words not mine). The impingement on the rest of the characters was how I could form a personal connection with them. Feeling their every bit of pain and the loss of a loved one on a personal scale, the entire plot point had an incredible elucidation.
“What the hell is instant? Nothing is instant. Instant rice takes five minutes, instant pudding an hour. I doubt that an instant blinding pain feels particularly instantaneous.”
My thoughts during the following scenes:
• Amidst the chaos of her “accident”, Pudge’s reaction was most human of all. He never really understood her and he never will. And when the realization strikes in and he looks at the Colonel, he just breaks down, taking you down with him.
“And so I never knew you, did I? I can’t remember, because I never knew.”
• Even the Colonel couldn’t get a crack the case. It was a collective agreement on the flabbergasting suicide.
• As they perused the case, they drew me in and I kept thinking, ‘What the fuck made Alaska Young kill her after making out with Pudge? Did it really mean something or was it just another drunken reflex?
• Me being me, I assumed the worst.
• We can all put ourselves in Pudge’s shoes – unrequited love and one kiss doesn’t scream ‘I love you’.
• ‘Straight and fast’, she said but it wasn’t pre-planned, a quick one-second decision made all the difference in the world. The feeling of being a failure and that too for the second time around!
• What’s worse, really, he’ll never know if she would pick him but my bet’s on her patting his head and calling him ‘Oh cutie, you didn’t think that one kiss would change a thing between us?!’
• He would have had his heart ripped out and handed to him, I’ve seen it play out that’s pretty much how it works.
• I’m curious, where the hell was Jake?! His reaction is the only pending bit post her death and it baffles me that he didn’t make it to her funeral?!
• And poor Lara, she deserved an explanation a lot sooner than Pudge was persuaded to offer her one. (By Takumi!)
• Overall, the bond between Pudge and the Colonel is similar to that of an old married couple. Hugging it out, weeping in each other’s arms and driving through the actual spot she had died in! That takes grit and only the strength of a friend can get you through something like that!
• Subverting the Patriarchal Paradigm – THE PRANK was classic Alaska and I was overjoyed to read that The Eagle knew it was a message from the beyond.
“We are indestructible as we believe ourselves to be.”
One of the finest works of John Green without a doubt meant to read at a stretch and not prolong it for four years like me. My tired fingers have bookmarked about 15 quotes that I love. Effectively brings back memories of high school and the lame pranks pulled off and assumed to be legendary. This book is a must read and if you haven’t read it then you’re just missing out!
“I know so many last words. But I will never know hers.”
- The blurb is borrowed from Goodreads.
- This is not my usual format of reviewing a book. But I had to make exception for this one as I had so many feels and it turned out to be a rant instead. I’m sorry if the content bothers you or seems offensive in any way.