Somehow I have to come up with something good to say about this book, despite irrevocably disliking it. I didn’t find any of the characters personable, and felt as if I was missing something when I wasn’t upset by the ending. I think it’s always a little risky to read books that have had so much hype, because I knew the majority of the plot already. What I wasn’t expecting however, was to dislike Looking For Alaska as much as I actually did. Stacks of Sarah reviewed this book at the beginning of the year, and when it comes to contemporaries I usually trust her reviews wholeheartedly. So, when I saw she’d given it only one star, I was prepared for the worst.
Pudge is the protagonist. I’m actually not sure what his real name was, because apparently ten years ago when this book was published nicknames were a big thing, who knew? I don’t think he really developed as a character. His transferal to the boarding school allowed him to try all of these new experiences, and yeah it may have enriched his life, but it almost got him killed too. I think one of the main problems I had with this book was the focus on underage reckless behaviour, like smoking and drinking. I don’t mind the odd reference to drink and drugs if it’s relevant to the plot, but when the characters depend on these things to stay sane, I really don’t think this should be advocated behaviour. It really shows the differences in what author could write about from then to now.
As for Alaska – don’t even get me started. I fell like Green was trying to make her the voice of feminism, and yet he had his main character head over heels in lust for her, for no other reason than she’s mysterious. Girls are not puzzles to be solved.
I don’t think I would describe any of the relationships in this book as healthy. Also, Pudge is a really rubbishy boyfriend for just leaving Lara and stringing her along while he waits for Alaska to dump her boyfriend. Lara’s role in this whole thing was to add more diversity to the cast of characters and to provide a distraction for Pudge so he’s not lusting after Alaska 100% of the time.
Plot and Pacing:
I can sum up this book in 6 words: pranks, sex, drugs, death, existential crises.
The novel is set out into Before and After, with the Before giving the majority of the backstory and basically consisting of the characters doing as much as they possibly could to mess with the school. After followed along the lines of the existential crises plot line. Pudge had this whole thing of remembering people’s last words, which I don’t think added anything in particular to his character or the story as a whole. In fact his obsession was rather self-destructing.
I really want to know how these characters progressed after the death of Alaska – which, I have to say, I thought was going to be a much bigger deal. I was expecting a mystery like in Paper Towns but the characters knew a car was involved. I suppose the only mystery was whether or not her death was suicide, and even that came to a very abrupt ending. Overall, I didn’t feel like the end justified all of the build up and I much preferred John Green’s other works. Therefore, I only gave Looking For Alaska 1 star. Although it had all the same basic components of a John Green novel, I didn’t find it nearly as entertaining.