Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review - Looking For Alaska

Looking for AlaskaI've said it once and I'll say it again: John Green is a Writing God. Fact. I read his debut novel Looking For Alaska yesterday (mostly yesterday, anyway) and I have to admit, I loved it. I preferred Paper Towns (reviewed here) for the most part, but Looking For Alaska managed to make me cry, three times.

On with the review!

Initial impression of the book?

It seemed to have a slow start, but even that was enjoyable. It's sort of like the calm period of a flight; you know, when you're in the air and everything nice and relaxing, movie's playing, food is delivered, then you hit turbulance. You start to wonder what's going to happen. Am I going to die? What's causing all this shaking? Who the hell is flying the plane?! I want to see the pilot. I have to know he's onboard! Then the overhead speakers come on; it's the pilot. Everything's okay, he says.

The plane lands. You're fine. You clap. You saved ours lives, man! The holiday begins. The book gets half-way through. Then your little brother decides to jump into the pool, in the shallow end, and he breaks his leg. The holiday is ruined. People are upset. Things get better as you start to head home, and by the end of the holiday, your little brother is safely on his bed, shaken up a little, but ultimately better for the experience of having been on a holiday, even if it hurt him a little.

That is my experience of Looking For Alaska.

How did the book compare to other things you've read by John Green? You know, that one thing you read of his... noob.

Like I said before, I preferred Paper Towns for the most part. I fell in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman, and even though I really like Alaska Young, she was no match. Close, though. And the girl makes all the difference. The girls in John Green's books, from what I can tell, are absolutely crazy, and they're what changes the main character. We get Miles Halter in this book, obsessed with being alone and the last words of dead men and women, who suddenly picks up a social life, doesn't fail in his new school and learns a thing or two about labyrinths. I prefer his quirks to those of Q in Paper Towns, but only a bit more.

The plots share some simialrities, too. Dashingly beautiful (but totally in control of herself, and not poster girl pretty - more human pretty) girl changes the life of bashful boy, then does something to mess with his head ever so slightly. It's a recognised formula, and yet... and yet... John Green still managed to surprised me. It's not what he does, but how he does it.

Where to from here?

Well, I've no big road trip ideas springing to mind from this book, and I don't think I'll be looking for a way out of the labyrinth, or looking for last words, or doing anything like what the characters in this book did... I suppose that means I'll be getting my money together to buy An Abundance of Katherines and/or Will Grayson Will Grayson. 

Did you take any message from this book?

Yes. Don't objectifiy women. Make observations about them, but don't objectify them. Also, people are very strange, very vague and a little bit messed up. All of us, even if some people (code for 'most people') pretend they're just part of the same system of life and economy as everyone else around them. People have dreams, people have doubts and people do things in the spur of the moment, but largely people are becoming drones, and it's girls like Alaska Young and Margo Roth Spiegelman (goddesses, both) who change people into something much more than that. That's the message to take from this: be yourself, and only be the same as every one else in that regard.

Done being preachy?

For now. Just go read the book.  


LauraCassidy said...

I love John Green! I'm reading Paper Towns at the moment. That's funny, I was just thinking yesterday how much I prefer Alaska over Margo! I'm going to his event at The Edinburgh Book Fest next month, cannot wait!

Paul Carroll said...

I am very much jealous of you right now. I was going to go to Edinburgh to see John Green, Darren Shan, Garth Nix and Barry Hutchison... but I can't afford to travel over there, stay for 2-3 nights and come back. Poor student is poor. Even with a weekend job.

Anonymous said...

I much perrferred Alaska and am re-reading it at the moment,however I have only Just recently finished Paper Towns so I'm still making up my mind