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Looking for Alaska
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on March 22, 2015
It's hard for me to be objective, because I have loved everything that I have read by John Green. The Fault in Our Stars was a gateway for me to Green's other books.

He truly writes characters that resonate and live beyond his words. His characters are complex and Alaska Young may be his most complex. Green is adept at making you "feel" what his characters feel.

"Looking for Alaska" follows this pattern but truly stands alone. The following passage from the book says everything you need to hear:

"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. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail."--John Green from "Looking for Alaska" Few authors can move me with their words like this.
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on March 25, 2014
There are books I love, am crazy about, but I rarely consider myself a wild fan of an author. I can enjoy and respect their work sans fawning over the person. They’re only human.

And then there was John Green.

After reading “The Fault in Our Stars” I knew I had to read everything ever written by this man. So here I am on my second John Green read, “Looking for Alaska.”

I had no idea what “Looking for Alaska” was going to be about other than 1) it was written by John Green and 2) the book had nothing to do with my home state.

The things I loved most: the humor, voice, and how tragically true to life the characters, and their circumstances, were. I appreciated Green’s ability to make me recall my own teenage desires to escape life’s maze and become something other than a drone trapped in the grind of life and responsibility.

On a personal note, something similar to what happened in the “After” section happened to a suitemate when I was attending an all-women’s college in Nevada, Missouri. Tragedies happen and as a whole, we cannot help trying to piece together what led to such an event. It’s human nature to reason and wonder and John Green showed that beautifully in “Looking for Alaska”, but more importantly than that, at least in my opinion, is the Great Perhaps. It’s no mystery that we’re all going to die. Until then, there are experiences and adventures to be had, people to meet, and books to read.
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on December 31, 2013
Every once in a while, along comes a book that you can't put down. That puts a character in your head you can't help but fall in love with. A book that does everything simply, but never THAT simply. A book that gives you everything you need, but leaves you wanting more. Like a restaurant that has the best food ever -- you leave satisfied, but you're sad you can't eat anymore.

Pudge (an ironic nickname) is our main character, and he has selected to go to boarding school in order to seek a loftier experience than his current education allows. The author never tells you why this happened, what the character's motivation is in doing this, or much of his past history at all. That bothered me at first, but I came to understand that's not the point of the story. The point of the story is the friends Pudge makes, including Alaska Youngman (same Alaska as in the title).

The book is divided into halves with an ominous countdown to the split-point, and no clue as to what said countdown is counting down to. In the first half of the book... well, basically, all I can say is, I wanted to be there. I wanted to have friends like the scheming Colonel, the beat-boxing Takashi, the cute foreign exchange student Pudge is set up with, and the crush on the unattainable Alaska. I wanted to go to this school, be these people's friends, and live this person's life. I wanted to live in this world.

The second half... well, I can't talk about that.

It shares a lot of the same themes and motifs that "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" does. The same YA setting with the unrequited crush, lovable best friend, observant main character, and g/f who doesn't work out. But it's not the same story, not by a long shot. Let me just say this. I got this book from the library. Then I bought it, because I loved it that much.
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on July 25, 2014
When I read John Green's The fault in Our Stars it took me a long time to review the book because it took me a long time to figure what bugged me about it: it had no soul! It had tons of heart, but it had no soul.

That didn't happen with Looking for Alaska.

First, the book title is simply brilliant! For a long time I passed this book on Amazon and I thought it was something in the lines of the movie Into the Wild. I can't explain it, but the title just had that ring to me...and in some way it didn't prove me wrong!

Now, the story: I loved it! It has intelligent and flawed characters, a captivating storyline, it's deep, it has heart, but above all it has soul. We can see so much of John Green as an Author in this book that it becomes real. We can see him in his characters, in their doubts, in their troubles, in the way they suffer, that you can picture them in your head. So to me this book was way better than The Fault in Our Starts.

This is a book about loss, and friendship, and being young and in love, and the time all of us believed that we knew everything, and that the world was ours to conquer. So, in the end, it's a book about hope as well.
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on November 12, 2013
"Before I got here, I thought for a long time that the way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it did not exist, to build a small, self-sufficient world in a back corner of the endless maze and to pretend that I was not lost, but home [...] so I came here looking for a Great Perhaps, for real friends and a more-than-minor life. And then I screwed up and the Colonel screwed up and Takumi screwed up and she slipped through our fingers. And there's no sugar-coating it: She deserved better friends" (John Green). These captivating descriptions are just one of the ways that John Green steals our hearts in the amazing novel of Looking for Alaska. Looking for Alaska throws reader into the middle of teenagers and their thoughts. We follow these two characters through a romance that is desired by the readers and of course Pudge. This novel by John Green was very well written and keeps the readers on their feet until the very last page.

One of the great points of this book is how much "Pudge" loves Alaska. John Green couldn't have written it better. Shows us insight on boys brains everywhere. Green shows us what Pudge thinks of Alaska. Which was almost angelic but yet she was very far from that. "I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane." Alaska was very much herself which I think Pudge liked because he didn't really know he was therefore showing complexity in the characters. This is one of the ways John Green explains this message to the readers.
Another great aspect of this novel is how the teenagers think of their authority figures. Throughout the entire book these characters use many illegal substances. But yet throughout the entire book you want them to get away with everything. You never feel that they shouldn't be doing something. Maybe it's because the authority is really awful and shouldn't really ever take care of children. You think that the dean of a boarding school would somewhat enjoy children. Also, John shows how adults see young people as people that aren't qualified for an intellectual conversation with an adult. And this is Dr. Hyde. Even though he was a bad person for ranting on these kids yet he was a great teacher and Pudge did admire him for that. Even out of class Pudge would make references towards his class. He shows his students about the labyrinth of life. "'You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth thinking about how you'll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present." -Alaska to Pudge (Green 42). He really had a lot of influence on these children; even if they didn't know it.
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on August 19, 2014
At the age of 63, I'm hardly of this book's genre and my grandchildren are too young. However, something must have grabbed me in a newspaper review and a cursory look at the Amazon reviews for me to put it on my wish list. Then when it came time to bundle some books to take advantage of free shipping, I added it because I had read of a mother wanting the book banned. (I'm always curious about that, since it makes absolutely no sense to me to ban books while the same parent allows the children to play violent video games. Go figure.) I'm getting increasingly dismayed at the books on the bestseller lists but this one deserves to be there. The author kept me interested. I didn't have to skim over meaningless, lengthy details and dialogues. His characters and scenes were so descriptive that I could see them and in some cases, smell them. But I didn't become emotionally attached to any of them, not even the female protagonist, although I applauded her in many cases. I thought the ending a little flat and was hoping for more, but it truly is a very good book and I will consider another John Green book if it's not another teen book.
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on April 22, 2014
I chose this rating not based on the author (though John green is a fantastic author and amazing youtuber) or the propaganda around it. I'm going off this rating as the 14 year old i am with my experience. First off the characters are phenomenal. Some stretch your limits of what goes through a teenagers head while others take the easy route of being simple and "ordinary" (whatever your term is for that) Second is the scenery. Compared to the typical book where it is hard to put a place on where it is, this book does an amazing job of describing the scene and the surrounding textures. Third and most grabbing is the story. I have never read a book that grabs your heart, strangles it and forces you to think about death like this one. I fell in love (metaphorically of course) with this book and enjoyed it so very much. To all you 1 stars, get your head on street please.
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on August 4, 2016
I am only giving this 2 stars. I bought if for my niece for Christmas. She is 14. It has some very graphic sex scenes that in my opinion are inappropriate for a book geared towards young adults. At the very least the book should come with a warning that it does contain explicit language and descriptions of actions that might not be appropriate for younger readers. The book is in her middle school library so obviously she isn't the only one her age reading it. I ordered a copy for myself after I found out she was upset by the content. I enjoyed the book but it probably isn't what a 14 year old should be reading.
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on July 9, 2014
Miles "Pudge" Halter is setting out in search of the Great Perhaps. And he certainly finds it. He finds a new school. He finds good friends. And he finds Alaska - well, he tries at least.

This book was extremely well written with eccentric yet believable characters. It was easy to sink into Culver Creek Boarding School and forget that you didn't need to worry about religion or preclac with Pudge and the gang. All the characters had depth with interesting quirks and motivations. The plot moved along at a steady pace with the book in two parts, "Before" and "After". The themes friendship and forgiveness were poignant and relatable. And the book really was fun to read.

However, I just don't know that I can give it five stars. It was a high school experience I just couldn't quite relate to (although I might be a little weird in that regard) and while I really enjoyed at the character quirks, it was hard to relate to some of them. However, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Young Adult fiction, and those who enjoy stories of friendship and forgiveness. It really was very good.
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on October 3, 2013
I was late hoppin on the John Green train, but what can you do. I read The Fault in My Stars first, which, of course, made me weep like a baby. Maybe I'll review it one of these days, who knows. I liked it a lot. John Green is one of those literary YA authors that you go to when you're looking for something meatier than the latest Sarah Dessen or Jennifer Echols, but are not quite in the mood for an emotionally- and mentally-exhausting epic tale like Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series. I would not put him in the same class as Francisco Stork or M.T. Anderson...he's just a little too earnest and his stories aren't quite as imaginative. But he is still a breath of fresh air and I am appalled with myself for not picking up one of his books sooner.

Anyways, that being said, Looking for Alaska was not as good as The Fault in My Stars. It was still enjoyable and well written, but something about it just didn't quite do it for me. I think it was probably the character of Alaska herself, who is your quintessential manic pixie dream girl (MPDG). The book takes place at a boarding school and focuses on a group of friends there: primarily Alaska, our MPDG who prides herself on being both wildly promiscuous and deeply literary, and the two dudes who are, naturally, madly in love with her (but don't really stand a chance): Miles (the narrator) and someone else whose name I cannot recall. It was pretty boring that they were so into this chick because there didn't seem to be all that much to her, except that she likes to smoke a lot of cigarettes and talk about what a slag she is, while simultaneously dazzling her suitors with her wit.

Miles is definitely the more interesting character and I'm relieved he was appointed as our narrator. I don't think I could have suffered through it if we had to hear Alaska pontificating about how damaged and quirky she is for 300 pages. Miles is a pretty insecure, scrawny high school senior who is nicknamed "Pudge" (as a joke). I could really relate to him and the various insecurities he had about going to a new high school and playing the game well enough to maybe make a friend or two. It's a story old as time but it is well done here; Pudge feels like a real human.

Anyway, the story itself is basically a coming of age tale of love found, love lost, self lost, self found. Like most John Green novels, not a whole lot actually happens in the book. Well, there is one major event, but that's it. Most of the book is just following the main characters around as they feel things and talk about those feelings. And it does basically work. I just wish Alaska had been more intriguing...but I suppose Alaska herself is not the point, so much as the "looking for" her.

I am conflicted about how many stars to give this. If it was a John Green-only scale, I would give it 3, because it's just not as good as some of his other books. But, that isn't the case; we are rating this alongside trainwrecks like the House of Night series, so I will give this 4 stars.
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