This week I read “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. This was a type of book that I had never read before. It was a needed reading experience for me regardless of whether I enjoyed the book or not. I ended up giving it three out of five stars on my Goodreads account, and the reason I didn’t give it more was because of my inability to relate to the work. I never could really get into the book or relate to the characters. But I did love the philosophical undertone of “The Great Perhaps.” Even though I could not relate, this class has continued to teach me that readers need to read works they are not comfortable with. I’m glad I went outside of my normal taste for this one.
Everybody and their dog has probably read this book so I’m not going to bore you with a review. Instead I will bore you with my thoughts on the book, and the good qualities that I thought it delivered. I enjoyed most of the characters, except for the main character. I found Miles Halter to quite uninteresting compared to The Colonel, Alaska, and their group of friends. Although I’m sure Green wanted to paint the main character as normal in order to highlight the eccentric personalities of the secondary characters. If that was what he was going for, it worked. The warrior poet, The Colonel, carried a deep seated vulnerability, and was hilarious. Alaska carried her enigmatic past with a cynical view of the future. The setting was a boarding school, which helped to highlight the character flaws even more. By having the backdrop be something that has an ethos of perfection and structure (the boarding school) it helped to show the real life problems teenagers endure, even inside the perception of a perfect school. So, to conclude this paragraph I enjoyed the theme of isolation that was delivered, and how that helped to highlight character growth.
The cigarette smoking in this book was almost unbearable. The book was 220 pages long and I bet 25 of those pages was a narrative on the art of smoking. I just didn’t understand why there was so much of it, maybe someone can explain it to me. There were at least a dozen trips to the “Smoking Hole” and another dozen trips to the shower to smoke. Each one of those scenes, besides maybe two or three, was not central to the story line. But once again, maybe this was the goal of the author. Plus I understand that not all the narration has to be central to the story line. Because of this I got a Hemingway feel out of this book. Hemingway was a master at repeating normal, daily events that build into a fever pitch of sadness by the end. This book made me walk away feeling that way. I would like to read another book to see if John Green’s voice stays consistent with this book. This book did have me laughing in places, but the sadness never hit me too hard for some reason.