Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green

“In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and sunshine and vanilla, and on that thin-mooned night I could see little more than her silhouette, but even in the dark, I could see her eyes – fierce emeralds. And not just beautiful, but hot too.”
Alaska Young. Gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, screwed up – and utterly fascinating. Miles Halter could not be more in love with her. But when tragedy strikes, Miles discovers the value and the pain of living and loving unconditionally. Nothing will ever be the same.

‘Looking for Alaska’ has been haunting me over the last few weeks. It has been there every time I’ve turned on the internet, browsed review sites, or gone into a bookshop. In the end I caved and my copy arrived this morning. I didn’t mean to sit down and read it then and there – I was in the middle of a very captivating different book! But I glanced at the first page, and then I flipped to carry on, and before I knew it I was halfway through and it was lunchtime.

The book is one where I actively feel as I read it that it is important – that it will change me in some way, and I will learn and grow from reading it. It is one that I want to go back to again and again because it was so painfully beautiful. I laughed, and I cried, and I felt Miles’ pain as though it were my own. Green’s insights on Death and the great unknown were beautifully expressed and offered some form of comfort. A way of maybe finding a way through the grief over time and coming to terms with the tragedy that occurs in everyone’s lives at one time or another.

The novel gives hope.

Despite Mile’s stand offish behaviour at the start of the novel, his frank assessment of the world and his place in it was intriguing and drew me in. He was an appealing narrator – frank, sometimes explicit in his teenage adolescence, funny, engaging and philosophical. A very good start to have such an interesting narrator, but the cast of characters that accompanied him were equally vivid. They were mundane yet extraordinary – and all flawed, yet ultimately forgiven for their flaws. It was just such a genuine portrayal of human tendencies and emotions. Of the tangled emotions and guilt that underlies relationships, and it was handled so deftly so as to seem not at all contrived, merely an insight onto a particular string of friendships. And an intriguing exploration of how you can never know a whole of someone – just the pieces they offer to you.

The countdown was an inspired way to give the whole thing an edge – and underlying sense that we were waiting, and that meant that even in the quiet of peaceful moments in the ‘Before’ there was the tension of waiting for that great unknown we were counting down to. And after simply made my heart break. I don’t want to go into detail and ruin it for those that haven’t yet read the book.

The smatterings of last words and philosophy gave the book an even deeper layer to delve into, and I personally found it fascinating to have these extra layers of class to explore as well. Everything was linked – every day and moment shared one that helped to build a picture of the whole imperfect thing.

It’s a book I want to go back to again and again. Exquisite, painful, and filled with hope as well as the idea of a beyond and forgiveness. I’m so glad this book chased me, and that I finally gave in and read it.

“’It’s very beautiful over there.’ I don’t know where there is, but I know it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”

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