This is a very disturbing emotionally provocative book. Meaning it will make you cry. Really! Even if you are a member of Seal Team Six, this will bring on the tears. And even if you are looking for any sex type scenes (because, after all, that is the only thing teenagers do) you will have to read very attentively to find one. There is one.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
This is about teenage suicide. This is already a distressing, horrible topic and I think if I knew that before I started reading, I would not have read it. I would not recommend it to my teenage so. It is a very emotional ride.
I have previously read The Virgin Suicides and Thirteen Reasons, both excellent novels about a similar topic. From reading samples and reviews before I began, I was prepared for the topic of those books. Having said that, this book is better.
Alaska Young is an adventuresome free spirit. Her closest friends do not really know her, and she wants it that way. She frequently answers with lines such as “I’m unpredictable.” There are frequent mood acting outs, but we never really get to the why of them.
Miles and Chip are roommates at an Alabama boarding school where the novel takes place. Miles is a person with few friends, either at the boarding school or at his home. Roommate Chip has a dysfunctional family and wants to be addressed as Colonel. After introductions, they go to meet Alaska, a girl who has a single room because her roommate was expelled the previous term. As relationships develop, there is a center point of smoking, almost sexual incidents (and one semi-explicit one) and pranks played on other students, each other, or the Eagle, dean of students. A central moral code is emphasized “Never rat,” or its equivalents of never squeal, and never tell. Like someone told on Alaska’s roommate. No one knows who informed on Mary, but Takumi, a new friend, has made it his mission to find out.
In the table of contents there is “Before” and “After.” A suicide divides the book almost in half. The first half is entertaining reading in its descriptions of teenage angst suffered by teenagers trying to survive and establish identities at a boarding school. The second half begins on page 135 with the notification to the student body of a suicide. Predictably depressing descriptions of reactions of class colleagues do not make for entertaining reading.
Pages 216-224 are what makes this book the best of the three mentioned in this review. There is a lot of speculation on the meaning of life delivered through a mechanism of examination of “last words.” I found this to be a very clever device. I used a highlighter on most of these pages and far more than any other part of the book.
Don’t forget to look at the authors endnotes and guide. I found these best examined after taking a couple of days break after finishing the book. They are also entertaining.