(I suppose this’ll set a trend for writing my reviews of the books I read the day after. Fine with me!)
Rating: 4 / 5
The first book that I read was Looking for Alaska, a title by the more literary of the two [in]famous VlogBrothers, John Green. (For those of you who don’t know who the VlogBrothers are, here’s their YouTube channel. The name pretty much sums it up!)
Clocking in at 230 pages, it took me 4 hours and 28 minutes to read yesterday (I’m not the fastest reader).
Looking for Alaska reminded me of the basic structure of Philip Roth’s book Indignation in certain ways – that one may have been a bit longer, but they both feature 1. a protagonist who leaves a nowhere town and only sporadically keeps his parents and 2. falls in love with a girl who isn’t entirely mentally stable. They differ in that 3. John Green isn’t nearly as gleefully sadistic as Philip Roth (a term of endearment, Philip!), 4. being a work of young adult fiction, protagonist Miles “Pudge” Halter actually sounds like, you know, a teenager, and 5. it ends on a strangely uplifting note.
What makes this book problematic to review is that events past halfway would definitely be construed as spoilers, at least for a first time reader. So I’ll do my best to give you an idea of the setup: Pudge is sent from Nowhere, USA to Culver Creek Preparatory High School, where he falls in very quickly with a group of kids both intellectual and reckless – Chip “the Colonel” Martin, Takumi Hikohito, and of course Alaska Young. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about a girl that reads Marquez and still parties like an animal makes me drool. They are of course in opposition to the teachers and authority figures, as well as to the Weekday Warriors – snobby rich kids who go back home every weekend. Shenanigans are had all around, some more mean spirited than others; Pudge actually gets hazed his first night on campus, which really sets the mood that although this is a young adult novel, it does carry some gravity with it.
What really makes the novel shine, however, is John Green’s eye for motifs. There are several phrases that are repeated over and over in the book (a #3 for Indignation similarities), most importantly the last words of Francois Rabeleis and Simon Bolivar. Pudge is obsessed with memorizing last words, and they guide him a lot through the book. He even describes his decision to leave home at the tender age of sixteen as going to “seek a Great Perhaps,” the meaning of which is just enigmatic enough to make it interesting.
I got the feeling reading through the book that there was a lot of foreshadowing in miniature going on that I wouldn’t catch on a first read. And as Bloom County put it: Foreshadowing: Your clue to quality literature!
An enjoyable read, overall. (Maybe the next review I do for a novel I’ll break it down into categories?)