Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve read this book. I thought that giving it some time would allow my thoughts to settle, but all it’s done is encourage them to oscillate into convolution. This is one of those novels that seems to captivate everyone who reads it, so perhaps my expectations were too high heading into it. This might also be a case where my nasty habit of viewing spoilers before reading the book might have detracted from the emotional impact somewhat. For whatever reason, I never connected to this novel in the way I felt I should, which is a shame because all of the components were there: a likable,

Looking for Alaska by John Green

witty, everyday narrator, quirky side character who straddles the line between novelty and believability, a boarding school environment, and a beginning that promises to be devoted to characters exploration rather than plot twists. I should have loved it, and I did really enjoy it, but as inevitably happens when I read one of Green’s books, something didn’t quite work for me.

Pudge is probably one of Green’s best narrators from a technical standpoint. He’s impossibly clever, yet he never spouts off a one-liner that you know could only come from the mind of a thirty-something wordsmith like Green rather than an average teenager. I wished that Green had allowed him a bit more conviction; it wasn’t his easy acquiescence to adopt the questionable lifestyle of his compatriots that I minded so much as it was that his entire world seemed focused on insinuating himself into their, and particularly Alaska’s, lives. This isn’t new territory for Green, as his characters are usually on a quest to attain the unattainable in the form of another person rather than an accomplishment, but unlike Green’s other characters, Pudge seems solely concentrated on this goal without anything that makes him stand out in his own right. In contrast, I would have loved to have seen the Colonel fleshed out more, since the sparse glimpses we got of his background and personality belied a depth that I felt Pudge lacked, yet that could have formed a solid story in its own right.

I won’t say much about Alaska, other than the fact that she rivals Margo Roth Spiegelman as my least favorite female Green character to date. I really found nothing redeeming about her, and was shocked that Green didn’t particularly bother to mine her character enough to give readers that chance. Perhaps that was a goal of the story that I somehow missed (though I do understand Green’s choice to leave many questions up to the characters’ and the readers’ imagination). Suffice it to say, while I could read the promise of greatness in every page, Looking for Alaska never attained that status for me.

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