Looking for Alaska
London, HarperCollins, 2006, 263p
John Green's style is becoming increasingly popular - the awkward young protagonist meets the girl / boy of his / her dreams, and their soul mate is charmed by their strange quirks and skinny frame. Romance ensues, with elements of uncertainty and a comic best friend helping bring the couple together. A happy ending is not guaranteed, but the reader is promised a slither of hope as they read the final pages.
Miles falls for Alaska the moment he meets her. She is beautiful, curvy and confident; he is lanky, awkward, and can recall the last words of almost anyone. Alaska has a boyfriend who she professes to love, so Miles must settle for being her friend. He has moved schools, looking for the Great Perhaps - that opportunity to do more with his life than he had previously been experiencing. He makes friends, pulls pranks, and gets drunk, but his love for Alaska never deteriorates.
Looking for Alaska is a sweet and zany romance. It's target audience - those teenage misfits that so love John Green - will find quotes to treasure and moments to relate to. Initially, I found myself engrossed with Miles Halter - I understood his low self-esteem and satisfaction with his own company, conflicting with his desire to find a group with which to fit in. Unlike many high school romances, John Green does not transform his characters in any profound or physical sense; essentially, they find ways to love themselves through friendship (and often some mild drinking).
But as with many other John Green novels I have read, I identified more with the comedy sidekick than the main protagonist. The Colonel, as he has named himself, is a trailer park boy with brains, awarded a scholarship into the academically aspirational Culver Creek. He is resentful to many of the posh kids at school, but makes himself the class clown, determined to get thrown out of every basketball game for causing a ruckus. And there was also Takumi, who plays a more quiet supporting role. These two are the glue which bring Miles and Alaska together and bind the whole story.
It is clear why John Green's writing has become so popular; and, like The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska is shortly going to be made into a movie. However, I do find that I need long gaps between reading his novels - the formula is so perfect it becomes predictable, and I need something completely different for my next read.