New York Times best selling author John Green was awarded the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award for Looking for Alaska. Our reviewer, New York Times best selling author, Jamie Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) and his daughter, Madi, tell you why it’s a must read.
By Madi Ford
Earlier this year, I read John Green’s, The Fault in Our Stars, and I loved it (though I was somewhat mad because I didn’t think anyone could be as wonderful and perfect as Augustus Waters in real life, though a part of me is still hoping…)
So, when my dad asked me to choose a book for this review, I sought Green’s first book, Looking for Alaska, which turned out to be a good choice for any teenager (or even adult) as it deals with universal questions of love, friendship, truth and the unknown areas in between.
The story follows Miles (Pudge) as he attempts to reinvent himself at a new school, with new friends and new experiences (smoking, drinking, dating). But he gets more than he bargained for when he meets Alaska Young, with her witty charm and too-good-to-be-true carefree attitude.
I loved how the book continued after Alaska’s mysterious death. There was so much more to feel at that point because it left Miles and all of Alaska’s friends lost and confused, struggling without closure, questioning who she really was.
Also, the “not so” PG rating gives a believable feel to the book. Unexpected plot twists pull you in, as do the numbering of the chapters, which are a countdown that hint to some big event toward the end.
As a teen, I could relate to Looking for Alaska because the characters felt real. And while the book drew me in emotionally, the story still had a sense of humor that speaks to readers my age.
Although the book reaches from suspense to sadness, I enjoyed every moment.
By Jamie Ford
After hearing such favorable (okay, gushing) reviews of John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, I picked it up, sat on the couch and read the first chapter out loud to my wife. I was hooked. She was too. Three hours and a box of Kleenex later, we sat there in awe. We both loved that book! So much so that I didn’t want to read another John Green book for a while—I just wanted to wallow in the deep emotion of that story. But then, I was asked to review Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, with my daughter, Madi. She picked it up, devoured it and placed it in my care.
Alaska reads as satisfying as The Fault because it delivers in the same way—with likeable (okay, adorable) characters, dialogue that’s honest, funny and charmingly vulnerable, and an emotional gut-punch that leaves you haunted for days.
In Looking for Alaska, we find ourselves looking for solace and acceptance through the eyes of Miles Halter, who leaves his home and friendless existence in Florida to attend Culver Creek Preparatory High School in Alabama. A teen infatuated with the last words of famous dead people, Miles goes, as the late Francois Rabelai once said, “to seek a Great Perhaps.”
That Great Perhaps befriends him in the form of Alaska Young, a wild, impulsive, self-destructive girl who seems to love all, despite a heart broken by familial tragedy. Miles is smitten. Beyond smitten—he is quietly gobsmacked in love with Alaska, even as he dates another girl and Alaska professes her love elsewhere.
Magically, and painfully, the two share a tender, drunken, confessional moment and Alaska promises, “To be continued?” Miles agrees, while their lips are still touching, and he lets her go, for a moment that becomes a lifetime.
Looking for Alaska is a journey of self-discovery that explores true understanding, forgiveness, and eventually, the idea of love itself. If one loves another, if one feels strongly enough, can the aggregate of those emotions become a sum greater than the original? Can loving someone satisfy never truly knowing them? If those are the answers you’re looking for, you’ll find them in Looking for Alaska.
Jamie Ford is the best-selling novelist of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.