Ah , John Green. A man who attracts as much vitriol as he does plaudits. I recently read that he was described as a writer who preys on the weaknesses of young adult teenagers, in particular girls. Bit harsh, really.
Looking for Alaska is Green’s debut and predates the mega-smash The Fault in our Stars by several years, published in 2005. It is intriguing from that point of view, to see how Green’s writing has evolved. For me, The Fault in our Stars main strength was the dialogue, and here we can see the sprouts of his cutting and humorous dialogue, but in no way to the same extent.
The Alaska of the title is Alaska Young, object of Miles’ affection. Through his eyes, we meet wild child Alaska, complete with drinking binges and chain smoking, in a boarding school setting. This setting lends itself to the slightly retro feel of this book, sneaking off to go drinking and elaborate pranks being central to the plot. This already seems a little dated, as you would wonder if the contemporary teen would be even bothered with planning elaborate pranks anymore, but some of the characters are compelling enough to overlook this aspect.
Miles is the typically shy, new student, thrust into a new social circle, gaining what he believes are true friends, seemingly for the first time. The book is split into Before and After, which does push you to reach that middle point to find out ‘Before what?’
An enjoyable enough read, but not near the standard of The Fault in Our Stars. I’d imagine even John Green doesn’t lose much sleep over Looking for Alaska these days