Retro Friday Review : Looking for Alaska

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!

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Looking for Alaska by John Green
Pages : 221
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand alone
My Rating : 

From the author’s website :

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

My Thoughts :

I read Looking for Alaska in June 2009, for my first participation in the 48h Book challenge (and I will be participating again this year; to join the fun, visit Mother Reader!) I never got around to review it : I had loved the book, yet finished it in a state of such tiredness that I didn’t feel I could give it the review it deserved. Angieville’s Retro Friday meme seemed like the perfect occasion to do so, as I still have my notes from my first reading but also took the time to reread parts of it. I was surprised by how much I remembered of it : John Green really created unforgettable stories and characters! I am also forever impressed by how Green can get inside the mind of a teenager, yet write in a way that doesn’t feel juvenile.

I have to say, it was definitely a different read from An abundance of Katherines. Not in a bad way : just different. It’s as clever for sure – it is written by John Green, after all – but it also carried a lot more weight, if I can say. I loved every character of the story, and even though I’ve never been a teen boy (obviously), I felt I could understand what Miles was going through. His relationship with Alaska is exactly what a first love would be : a little unsure, a little nervous, but strong, somewhat passionate.

The book is split in two parts, Before and After. The chapters are titled by a countdown : Fifty-one days before, Forty-six days before, etc., and it gives you that nervous feeling that something will happen, something bad. I found it difficult to resist flipping the pages to the After part of the book, to know what happens. The second part of the books has a countdown in reverse, counting the days after. It carried the sense of “going forward despite the event”, and for me it reinforced the idea that there is no magical number of hours or days to get over something, and sometimes you carry it with you forever; you just learn to live with it.

I have to conclude by saying, you can’t go wrong with John Green. Looking for Alaska will make you laugh and break your heart at the same time, and take you through an incredible, unforgettable story.

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7 responses to “Retro Friday Review : Looking for Alaska”

  1. Meg says :

    Completely agree that John Green creates unforgettable characters. I read Looking For Alaska years ago and can still vividly recall the setting, situations, dialogue, etc. — even character names! And that’s super rare for me, especially years after the fact. Thanks for reminding me how much I enjoyed this one, Kay!

  2. Melissa says :

    This was my very first Green novel and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. It’s rare to find that brilliant blend between beautiful, witty writing and wonderful characters.

  3. Ceri says :

    Ooh, I’m desperate to read this. They don’t publish John’s works here in the UK but I was over the moon when I found An Abundance of Katherines in Waterstones about a month ago – They’d imported it over. Now I’m hoping they’ll do it for this and Paper Towns. 🙂

  4. BermudaOnion says :

    I’ve got several of Green’s books and need to read one soon!

  5. Molly says :

    I love this book so, so much. It is my favorite John Green, and I think his best. The last couple of pages make me cry every single time I read them; not because they are so sad, but because they are so beautiful.

  6. Traci says :

    I adored both of these books. Paper Towns is next up on my to be read stack, and I’m sure it’ll rank right up there with them.

  7. toothy says :

    i read this a few months ago and it was my first time ever reading anything by green. i don’t know why i waited so long to pick up one of his books, but i loved it so much! i haven’t gotten around to writing a review of it though, but i will once summer starts and school finally ends.

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