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Showing 1-10 of 3,292 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 4,461 reviews
on April 12, 2016
The answer to "what did you think" is kind of complicated. Overall, I liked the book. John Green really has a way with words and such real character that I can't dislike any of his books. He tends to choose heavier topics and does a good job at...doing so. This one though, is by far the heaviest of the stories of his that I've read. It almost doesn't feel like the same author in some respects. It is a first novel. (At least in known publications.)

Pros:
Well-written
Complex, believable, real characters
Interesting story
Loved the narrator's voice
It's so normal and extraordinary all at once - if you know what I mean

Cons:
It's very sad. Very
I am left with a feeling of loss -- which goes to show good writing, but it still hurts
I found it weird how this straight-laced kid goes from no friends at home to friends and doing all kinds of not straight-laced things at his new school
It's very, very sad

I can't John Green's novel. I just can't. The voice of the narrator is just so wonderful...it's amusing and it's like someone is really talking. You can hear it. I love it. This isn't my favorite John Green novel, but it's still a good one.
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VINE VOICEon June 5, 2014
Miles has decided he needs to take risks in life, so he enrolls in a boarding school to escape his friendless and uneventful existence. There he meets a motley group of mischievous students, including his roommate Chip, aka "The Colonel" and troubled wild-child, Alaska, who becomes the object of his affection. There were several elements that I really enjoyed. 1) Miles' narrative voice, for both his innocence and his willingness to expand his horizons. 2) The characters' intelligence and resourcefulness. These kids are all smart in their own unique ways and use their talents in inspiring and sometimes misguided endeavors. 3) Green doesn't shy away from the realities teenagers face, including sex and substance use. 4) The Before and After format. Knowing that some significant event is going to occur allows for a sense of anticipation and drama. 5) Pranks!

(Warning: MILD SPOILERS) Though not as emotionally charged as The Fault in Our Stars, this book did convey how tragedy affects an individual and a community. I could sympathize with Miles' grief and how it changed his friendship with Chip and his other classmates. Alaska herself was somewhat of an enigma, rarely exposing her own vulnerability. My only qualm would be that the conclusion was a bit tidy and mildly ambiguous. Though the cause of the incident was eventually defined, it was never determined whether Alaska was truly self-destructive. Despite any vague inferences, it was a great book that depicted the tumultuous teenage existence quite well.
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on May 3, 2016
Let me preface by saying that I'm an adult reading/reviewing this book, and perhaps someone a bit younger would give it 5 stars.

That said, I thought the characters in the book were truly well-developed and added value to the story. The book is set in two halves: Before and After. I found Before to be the most exciting and fast-paced, but After was more introspective and thoughtful. The message was meaningful and actually made me think a little. I only give this 4 stars instead of 5, because I saw the ending coming from a mile away. These kids spent the second half of the book trying to discover something I already knew. Their insight and thoughts in the end still add meaning to the book, but I wished for a little more suspense - an aha moment.
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on September 13, 2016
OVERRATED. I bought this book because so many reviews raved about how amazing it is. I'm sorry, it just doesn't resonate with me at all. The characters are shallow and unappealing, and the "mystery" surrounding Alaska just isn't that interesting. Read it in a few hours, struggling to find some kind of depth or meaning to what I was seeing, and it just isn't there. It's one of those books that reminds me why I stopped reading fiction in the first place.
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on July 3, 2012
I really loved this book. Mr Green does an excellent job in capturing the very essence of what makes these characters tick. Of who they are. No matter how out of left field they may seem at times. They were real. And they had real issues. This one is a very entertaining, heartfelt, endearing, and at times a hilarious read. I had plenty of laugh out loud moments with this one.

This story is the story of Miles. A 16 year old average boy who leaves his home in Florida by choice, to attend a boarding school in Alabama.
There, his world is opened up. Mainly surrounded by the people he meets and the experiences that come with that. Good and Bad. But ultimately it causes him to find himself. This is just one of those stories that sucks you in and keeps you there. But you're always aware that something tragic is about to happen.

I could have done without all the "Detective" work that came about in the middle of the second half of this book. It just didn't really read as a realistic event concerning these characters to me, and I was really wishing that during this time, it would have taken a different route. But the internal struggles that Miles and his friends go through rang true for me. And is what kept me reading through to the end. And how the "answer" came about surprised me. In a good way.

All in all this one is a great read. I highly recommend this one.
I have to say this though.. Although I got her, I really could not stand Alaska! LOL
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on February 3, 2016
This is my daughter’s (second) favorite book (‘Divergent’ is first). She asked me to read it and I was very happy to do so. After I finished the book she and I spent a long time talking about the book and it was a wonderful way to connect with her.

in this novel Alaska is not a place but rather a person, a teen girl who was given the opportunity by her “Hippy” parents to select her own name. She attends Culver Creek boarding school where our story’s protagonist, Miles Halter, decides to attend after two unhappy & friendless years in his hometown high school.

Upon arrival at Culver Creek Miles is immediately befriended by his roommate, Chip "The Colonel" Martin, and bestowed with the nickname “Pudge” (because he is thin). Their first outing together is to Alaska’s room, where everyone goes to score cigarettes & booze.

Alaska, Pudge, The Colonel and a Japanese student named Takumi Hikohito soon become inseparable friends. The Colonel is the studious one, dedicated to earning excellent grades so that he can graduate, get a good job and buy his single mother a real home so she can move out of the trailer park. Alaska is the wild one, always engaged in outrageous and self-destructive behavior*.

*Note: I read this book shortly after reading another of John Green’s books entitled ‘Paper Towns’. It’s always a mistake to read two books by the same author in quick succession because similarities are bound to arise that can spoil the current book. That is, unfortunately, what happened here. There was a teen female character in ‘Paper Towns’ who was so self-absorbed and self-destructive as to be infuriating and I’m afraid that character colored my impression of Alaska, whom I otherwise might have been more sympathetic to.

The novel is set up in chapters entitled “so&so many days before”, etc. so the reader knows that we are heading towards a life changing event of some sort. I especially liked this format as it felt to me the way that the human mind actually organizes itself: we remember things as being “Before” or “After” a life changing event.

Another thing I liked about the book was the fact that the adults were portrayed as real human beings rather than the cardboard figures they frequently are in Young Adult novels. The school director and the religion teacher each played significant roles as fully developed emotional people and I appreciated that (one gets tired of Young Adult novels in which the entire world seems made up of teenagers).

I also like the way Green incorporates learning into his novels. In ‘Paper Towns’ I came away from the novel with a greater understanding of Walt Whitman’s famous poem ‘Leaves of Grass’ and also with a knowledge of the existence of “paper towns”, a concept which I had not been familiar with before. In this novel the ideas being presented for the reader to contemplate are rather intense philosophical ones. The religious studies class essays that the kids work on throughout the book deal with such questions as “What is the meaning of life?” and “How can we survive the struggle that is life?”. The kids are encouraged to reflect on these questions within the context of the world’s major religious teaching and it all makes for some pretty thought provoking reading, even for an adult.

The event that the “before” and “after” chapters allude to is Alaska’s death. She dies in a drunken car wreck and the boys blame themselves for letting her drive drunk before they begin to realize that she may in fact have committed vehicular suicide in which case they blame her for their suffering and guilt. Once again, pretty profound stuff.

Overall, a powerful book for young adult readers and not too bad even as an adult read.
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on November 1, 2015
I was very disappointed in this book. I did not enjoy this novel because I found Miles’ character to be very boring, annoying, cliché, and full of undeserved expectations. He seemed very selfish which I found off-putting. Though the book kept trying to convince me how deeply interesting and unique Alaska was meant to be, I found her obvious and one-dimensional. Green’s attempt to include references to quality literature was a transparent effort to make his own book appear deeper then it is. The character development was lacking for most of the characters; Alaska’s sudden death was an easy way to deal with her colorful character rather than having her change and grow. However, many parts of the text were compelling, such as, the religion class, the pre-prank, how the Colonel wants to buy his mother a house. Taken out of context of the book as a whole, I enjoyed these parts thoroughly.
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on May 7, 2016
This is about teenage suicide. This is already a distressing, horrible topic and I think if I knew that before I started reading, I would not have read it. I would not recommend it to my teenage so. It is a very emotional ride.

I have previously read The Virgin Suicides and Thirteen Reasons, both excellent novels about a similar topic. From reading samples and reviews before I began, I was prepared for the topic of those books. Having said that, this book is better.

Alaska Young is an adventuresome free spirit. Her closest friends do not really know her, and she wants it that way. She frequently answers with lines such as “I’m unpredictable.” There are frequent mood acting outs, but we never really get to the why of them.

Miles and Chip are roommates at an Alabama boarding school where the novel takes place. Miles is a person with few friends, either at the boarding school or at his home. Roommate Chip has a dysfunctional family and wants to be addressed as Colonel. After introductions, they go to meet Alaska, a girl who has a single room because her roommate was expelled the previous term. As relationships develop, there is a center point of smoking, almost sexual incidents (and one semi-explicit one) and pranks played on other students, each other, or the Eagle, dean of students. A central moral code is emphasized “Never rat,” or its equivalents of never squeal, and never tell. Like someone told on Alaska’s roommate. No one knows who informed on Mary, but Takumi, a new friend, has made it his mission to find out.

In the table of contents there is “Before” and “After.” A suicide divides the book almost in half. The first half is entertaining reading in its descriptions of teenage angst suffered by teenagers trying to survive and establish identities at a boarding school. The second half begins on page 135 with the notification to the student body of a suicide. Predictably depressing descriptions of reactions of class colleagues do not make for entertaining reading.

Pages 216-224 are what makes this book the best of the three mentioned in this review. There is a lot of speculation on the meaning of life delivered through a mechanism of examination of “last words.” I found this to be a very clever device. I used a highlighter on most of these pages and far more than any other part of the book.

Don’t forget to look at the authors endnotes and guide. I found these best examined after taking a couple of days break after finishing the book. They are also entertaining.
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on September 4, 2016
I thought this book was well written but I think I'm 25-30 years too old to appreciate it. If I was 18, I think I would have related more to the struggles of the main characters in the book and how they respond when something happens to one of their fellow students. I'm trying to be cryptic so I don't reveal too much and spoil it for others but I think that one of the benefits of being older is that you're able to better process the crap that life throws at you and the experiences over the years enable you to learn how to cope and move on. I would much rather be my older self with the wisdom and experiences of life and would not like to be 17 or 18 again for anything! The characters in this book find it really hard to cope with 'said event' and to move forward. To me, the fact that much of this book was devoted to this struggle was much ado about nothing and there really wasn't much to keep me interested and turning the pages. I had to force myself to labor through this and it took several weeks for me to finally finish it.
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on December 29, 2012
This is my favorite novel since I read Gilead. It is simple, but profound, and emotionally true in a way that so few novels are. Its message resonated with me on a deep personal level. There are things that happen in your life that change you forever, and you can struggle all you want to figure them out, to no avail. As Fritz Perls used to say, "knowledge is the booby prize." This book teaches how to come to terms with the difficult, the impossible even. A lovely, kind, thoughtful book that persists after reading. Put this very high on your "must read" list.

P.S. While this book is about young adults, I wouldn't think of it as a "young adult novel" any more than I'd think of _Gilead_ as a "senior novel" just because it deals with an older protagonist.
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