Tuesday, March 10, 2009
A book review?? Holy Hell...it's about time, you say!! Well, yes. I AM hopelessly behind in reviews. And my reading has been slow and tedious lately. But I have found the way out of this kind of slump is a GREAT book. With Looking for Alaska by John Green (256 pgs, Puffin, 2005) I found just that. I guess I finally know what all the fuss is about!
The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party. To say that I had low expectations would be to underestimate the matter drastically.
Miles Halter is looking for something new. His life in Florida is boring, he has no one he can really call a friend, he's never had a girlfriend, and he's obsessed with famous Last Words. Miles wants more out of life, and decides to pack it all in and go to Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama. When asked by his mother why he wants to leave he gives this answer:
"So this guy," I said, standing in the doorway of the living room. "Francois Rebelais. He was this 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."
Into the Great Perhaps, he meets up with a group of people that he can finally call friends: His roommate, Chip "the Colonel" Martin, a brilliant scholarship kid that can plan a prank with the best of them; Takumi, the Japanese DJ; and Alaska Young, the beautiful, intelligent, but troubled girl that everyone falls just a bit in love with.
This book is divided into 2 sections: The Before and The After, leaving the reader with only the knowledge that something important is going to happen. I really can't say anything else about the plot without giving away some spoiler, but the reader knows that the countdown is to something ominous.
But the plot is secondary to the characters and their relationships in this book. Miles search for the Great Perhaps completely evoked thoughts of Holden Caulfield and his search for meaning in Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Miles sheds his lonely life and learns what it's like to have friends. He learns the values of loyalty, honor, and even love. (He also learns how to smoke, drink, and perform some of the greatest school pranks in recorded history!)
John Green's writing is a thing of beauty. At once, it is funny, touching, tragic and heartbreaking. Green is a master with his words, and he knows how to get inside the head of teenagers.
"There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day. Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future. If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless."
Simple, yet so complex. The "before" half of the book is filled with wonder and discovery. The "after" half of the book shows how Miles deals with consequences....and it can be gut-wrenching. But through it all, Green weaves a beautiful story of friendship, love, and grief. This book is a testament to the fact that teens today are a lot smarter than I think most adults give them credit. A fantastic read, this will definitely be one of the "bests" of the year! And it also shows that another "G" author is going to make his way into my favorites list! A superb 5/5!!