Today is a big day, I’m finally starting to fill the Young Adult section of my blog. Yes, more than one year after starting this blog, it was high time I finally dived into young adult literature! For the little story, these are young adult novels that made me the reader I am today (and the Harry Potter books, obviously!). I loved a lot of young adult books when I was younger and one of my favourite books of all time, Junk by Melvin Burgess, is a young adult novel. But I have slowly evolved into a fiction reader over the last years and I don’t read much young adult literature anymore now, which is a shame. That’s why I hadn’t posted anything in this section yet. OK, now that I’m done with my pseudo justifying, let me introduce you the book I’ve chosen to review : Looking for Alaska by John Green. Here’s the plot of this novel:
Miles Halter leaves his parents, along with his boring and easy life in Florida, to start his studies at Culver Creek, a boarding school in Alabama that his dad also attended. Culver Creek marks, of course, the beginning of a new exciting life for Miles: he becomes part of a little group – consisting mainly of Chip or the so-called “Colonel”, Takumi, Lara and, of course the unpredictable Alaska – who is involved in a merciless war against the Weekday Warriors (that is to say the rich kids who come from the area and can go back to their mansions every weekend). The little band also loves organizing all kinds of pranks in the school, and especially pranks targeting the Eagle, the Dean of Students. Miles – known as Pudge at Culver Creek – learns how to smoke, how to drink, how to kiss and more. He is fascinated by Alaska, a very beautiful and experienced girl with mysterious moods who happens to be his friend and the best prankster of the gang. The school year is going quite well for Miles, until a terrible event happens. How Miles and his friends manage to cope with this event constitutes the second part of the novel.
Looking for Alaska is a quick and easy read (whether you’re a teenager or a grown-up). It’s entertaining and clever. I clearly recognized John Green’s wit in his writing style, and that’s quite pleasant. I also like the fact that the second part of the book takes a totally unexpected turn. Instead of being tragic or pathetic as it would have been in any other young adult novel, the second part of the novel is quite light and really interesting. It brings the novel to a totally different direction – that’s surprisingly where the novel really takes a comic turn –, and I deeply enjoyed it.
The construction of the book itself works very well, even if it has nothing revolutionary. Each chapter of “Before”, the first part of the novel, is dated as a countdown to the terrible event I was telling you about: “One Hundred and Thirsty-six Days Before”, “One Hundred and Twenty-eight days before” and so on, and the chapters in the second part, “After”, are also dated in relation to this event. Of course, this draws out the suspense in the first part of the book. We know from the start that something big will happen, even if we have no idea what the nature of the event will be. As the plot shapes up and “The last day” chapter gets closer, we get a better feeling of what the event will be like, but I still had quite a few assumptions I couldn’t decide between until the last chapters of this first part. So yes, I think this is a good way to get the readers involved. It’s simple but it worked for me.
To be honest, I don’t know if this is the kind of novel that’s really going to revolutionize teenagers’ life but I don’t think John Green wrote Looking for Alaska with this purpose anyway. However, as an entertaining book dealing with some topics that really appeal to teenagers, I think that this is the kind of book that can drive teenagers to start reading (or read more). Two other facts I like about this book : as I suspected during my reading (and as it was confirmed by Wikipedia), this novel has some autobiographical parts. It was partly inspired by John Green’s own experience of boarding school: he himself attended a boarding school in Alabama, Indian Springs School, and, like Miles, he pulled out some big pranks at this school during his time there. Second fact that makes me like this book even more: the book was the first of the “top ten most challenged books for 2015” (out of 275 titles), a list set up by the American Library Association to inform the public about censorship attempts that affect libraries and schools. The reason? “Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.” I believe that any young adult novel that is regularly banned from schools and libraries under parents’ pressure is necessarily a good or important book.
What about you, have you read Looking for Alaska and what did you think of it? Also, if you have any young adult novel recommendation (because I want to keep reading good young adult fiction!), please let me know in the comments 🙂
Looking for Alaska by John Green. Published by Harper Collins, 2013 (for this paperback edition)