Book Review – Looking for Alaska

I just finished reading “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. Now, I have already mentioned John Green before on this blog (here and here), so you may have realized that I have an enormous crush on him. While reading this book that crush grew exponentially. The book was beautiful. It was hilarious. It was sad (I cried at least twice). Remember that episode of Friends when Rachel looks in Joey’s freezer and sees that he’s keeping a book in there? The book is there because Joey puts it there when the story got too scary. For reasons that I don’t remember at the moment, they each decide to read the other’s favorite book, so Rachel reads The Shining, and Joey reads Little Women. I seem to recall that at the end of the episode, they put Little Women in the freezer because Joey gets to be part of the book where one of the character dies. Why am I recounting all of this? Because as I was reading Looking for Alaska, I was totally have a “freezer” moment.** I was reading the book on my Kindle, so I didn’t actually put the book in the freezer, but I did actually have to wrench myself away for a while because I was just so overwrought by the book. Actually, overwrought would be an overstatement. If there is such a word as “wrought”, then that is what I was. I was wrapped up in the story, in the characters, and I was thoroughly loving the book every single moment, although I did not see the climax of the story coming. I will not say another word about that, as I don’t wish to spoil the book for you.

The writing was wonderful. The characters were wonderful. I love the idea of having a friend called “The Colonel.” I love that he automatically gave the narrator a new name the second he walked in the room. At one point late in the book, they referred to the narrator by his given name, and I stopped and asked myself “Who the heck is Miles…ooohhh, right, that’s Pudge’s actual name.” The way the book is structured is unique and interesting. The first half of the book is hilariously funny – I laughed out loud at several points – while the second half of the book is sad, gut-wrenching and yet still funny. I love the way John Green writes. As I’ve been watching his Crash Course videos over the last few weeks, I very much have his voice in my head, and that’s the voice that I heard as I read the book.

I did not know anything about the book when I first started reading it, other than the fact that it was written by John Green. The question and answer section after the end of the book mentions that parts of the story are autobiographical, but the author interview doesn’t go into much more detail than that. I think that this is probably the best way to read the book, because the only preconceived notion I had about the book was the above-mentioned crush. <grin>

I would like to be able to write like John Green one day. He has a love of the English language, and a talent for weaving words into beautiful sentences. While the descriptive parts of the book are very clearly in his voice, the characters speak in their own distinct voices. The speech patterns and cadences differ with each person, and even if you have put down the book for a while (which I had to do while I finished up a paper for grad school), when you pick it up again, even if you’re mid-chapter and have no idea who is speaking at first, you pick it up quickly again because of the way the characters talk.

My new mission is to go out and read everything that John Green has ever written. Oh, and to hope that one day he will miraculously show up on my doorstep, profess undying love for me and sweep me off my feet.

You know, totally realistic.

OK, so the first part is. I’ll go out and read everything he’s ever written. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write with a tenth of the talent that he has. The only sour note – in the author interview when asked what talent he has, Green’s answer is a self-deprecating “I’m good at finding and remembering trivia.” I know that to really answer that truthfully would make him sound conceited, however, I think it’s a bit disingenuous for him to say that is his only talent. He is an amazingly talented writer and has a gift with words. I think he should have at least given a nod to that in some way in the interview. A quibble, I know. I’m prepared to forgive him.

**I must include apologies. In doing a search online for the particular Friends episode I was thinking about, I came across this post. I wrote my post before I saw this particular post, but the similarities are pretty startling.

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