“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”
It’s no surprise that John Green has became the successful author that he is today. Thanks to his strong character development, unique humour and his style of writing which comes across as highly relatable to teenagers such as myself, Green has managed to win various awards as well as reaching number one on a New York Times Best Seller list. Whereas most writers’ first piece of work is usually not nearly as developed or as great quality-wise in comparison to their later work,Looking For Alaska is not only Green’s best piece of work, it’s an engaging book with interesting characters as well as all the traits you’d expect from a John Green book and then some.
The first thing that should be noted is the fairly unique structure of the book itself. Unlike how most books stick to the traditional chapter style of using numbers/names, Looking For Alaska is in two halves (Before and After) and uses a countdown function (e.g One Hundreds Day Before, Ninety Nine Days Before etc.) which helps us learn what happens before the main event and the events that follow, a nice change of pace and style from usually being flung into the middle of a scenario with no prior knowledge of the situation. The title character Miles is an extremely likeable protagonist who has the trait of learning famous people’s last word, an interesting quirk which could have potentially became a gimmick through repetitive use actually relates to the story that unfolds. Meanwhile Alaska, an extremely beautiful girl who drinks and smokes seems the complete opposite of Miles and it’s no surprise that Miles quickly falls in love with her in traditional teen fiction fashion. However, the event that follows soon after changes everything and we soon begin to see a different side of Miles (though not in any Walter White / Heisenberg kind of fashion.) The second half of the book reads something like a John Hughes coming of age film with Miles searching for closure with companions such as Chip “The Colonel” who supplies most of the books humour and a favourite amongst fans of the book. Without giving away too much of the plot away, the book is at times extremely touching as well as entertaining and the blend of the two help create a refreshing book which is hard to put down once you’ve read the first few chapters.
After reading Looking For Alaska, it was clear for me to see that the book deserved the awards that it had won. The characters were easy to like, the plot was a change from the typical sappy romance plot that teen fiction seems to be riddled with nowadays and is also thought provoking at times. One of the many famous last words that Miles had memorised was from the great writer François Rabelais which goes “I go to seek a great perhaps.” This is something that I think we’ve all asked ourselves at some point in our lives, especially during adolescence, and is still to this day one of my favourite lines from a book. Even if you aren’t a fan of John Green, I’d recommend this book to anyone as it not only entertaining but a book that will have you thinking long after finishing it.