I wasn't sure that Looking For Alaska would stand up to a reread and I mostly wrote this review before I did, but it did stand up to that and that makes me happy, and demands for the second time those 5 rare stars.
This lovely will always have a certain place in my heart as it was the first book I ever to take beyond face value, the questions that it raised still haunt me to this day. But first I want to defend the YA genre, and in specific John Green.
And so one of the criticisms his books get, is that his characters are these too intellectual and sophisticated beings that happens to be 17, right? But THIS IS FICTION. I mean who wouldn't want to have the choice to be too smart for their age if they can't help it? because if I have that choice or that criticism, oh well I could live with that!!
I heard that once in every 5 years or so you look back on yourself and you'll think Man oh man! I was such an asshole, and that's kinda true, but these characters, these people, these too smart adolescents? they would say GOD, WE WERE PERFECT!!
Now, into the actual review...
This book is sort of the example of what foreshadowing is, separated into halves, the BEFORE and the AFTER, with this "um thing?" in between that changes the course of events and the lives of everyone involved.
You have this kid, intelligent and gawky Miles that only reads the biographies of famous people and memorizes their last words.
My personal favorite was:
“Thomas Edison's last words were 'It's very beautiful over there'. I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful.”
But the one that imprints on Miles is :
“Francois Rabelais. He was a poet. And his last words were "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." That's why I'm going. So I don't have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.”
and for his search, Miles goes to Culver Creek boarding school, where he's suddenly surrounded by these wildly, intensely smart and well-read people, including A Girl.
And by girl I mean the force of nature that is Alaska Young, the girl that shatters the whole manic-pixie-dream-girl-stereotype and builds it up again, right from scratch. That breeze that would enter life changes it, completely, and then you're left there wondering if she was ever there at all in her wake. Actually no Alaska is no breeze, she's as wild as the wind! she's the girl that when you go into her room you'll find stacks and stacks of books, everywhere. She calls them her life's library and may be read a third or so, but she does plan on reading the rest. IMO she's one of the most fascinating characters I've read, and not only because she's utterly unpredictable, but also because she has stopped living on those pages and came alive in my mind.
But again don't be fooled by all those appearances, because in fact as bold and brilliant and compelling as she is, she's almost as disturbed and unhappy as a person could possibly be.
Alaska will seduce you and break your heart.
And beautiful sadness is a myth.
For their first encounter, Alaska shares her favorite last words with Pudge, which are:
“He—that's Simon Bolivar—was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line. The rest was darkness. Damn it," he sighed. "'How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!'
"So what's the labyrinth?" I asked her.
"That's the mystery, isn't it? Is the labyrinth living or dying? Which is he trying to escape—the world or the end of it?”
“She said, "It's not life or death, the labyrinth."
"Um, okay. So what is it?"
"Suffering," she said. "Doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That's the problem. Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of the labyrinth of suffering?... Nothing's wrong. But there's always suffering, Pudge. Homework or malaria or having a boyfriend who lives far away when there's a good-looking boy lying next to you. Suffering is universal. It's the one thing Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims are all worried about.”
Plenty more of this topic is discussed throughout the span of the story, mixed with guilt and grieve and lastly understanding and as much transcendence as teenagers could ever hope to be, because at that age you get to ask those questions,(view spoiler)without sounding like a complete cliched prick, and that age will be the last time you'll think and ask and realizing that life is horrible and death isn't some abstract thing that will never touch you.
For me Looking for Alaska and Paper towns are kind of the same book but with different perspectives, in Alaska you have that unexplored girl that will forever remain a mystery, and in PT that illusion is shattered and the reader is shown that all this had been an act, a facade, as the man himself said that the manic pixie dream girl type proves to be a figment of the adolescent male imagination. I get that and I still love Alaska, but the fact that I lie in that section of the adolescent male is undoubtedly unflatteringly HILARIOUS! :D
How could I forget to mention! I love me my john green books and me john green's writing, funny and thoughtful with that knowing edge that make you forget you're reading books from the young adult section! *ducks her head and make a graceful exit*