so here i am at the arlington public liberry on the prettiest day of the fall. i enjoy indulging my self-pity, although it’s actually not too bad– there are positives, like my bucket-sized venti latte, my elastic pants, and the pretty window that overlooks a fanciful garden below. but there is also an elderly man with a pretty nasty case of post-nasal drip up here in my secret space on the second floor whose sneezes and grunts are comically loud… grooooooossssssssssss!
but. that’s not what i am here to talk about. today, friends, i would like to present to you another book, which you may or may not find interesting. here we goooooooo:
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Bored and unpopular Miles Halter is going to seek, as poet Francois Rabelais puts it, the Great Perhaps. How? By going to boarding school! Culver Creek Boarding School provides rail-thin Miles with all that he’d hoped: a new nickname (Pudge), a new social life (helmed by his roommate Chip, aka the Colonel), and a new object of his affections, the enigmatic, gorgeous, and self-destructive Alaska Young. As the school year progresses, Miles learns how to drink, smoke, plot elaborate pranks, and feel like he belongs. He also falls deeply in love with Alaska, and his life becomes saturated with the excitement and unpredictability of the Great Perhaps. But then THE thing happens, and Alaska is gone, and there is nothing that guilt-ridden Miles, the Colonel, or anyone else can do to ever bring her back.
Looking for Alaska is divided into two sections: “Before” and “After,” which are then split into smaller sections that almost resemble journal entries (“eighty-four days before” and “twenty-seven days after”). This unique structure places central importance on the defining moment of the book, and creates a feeling that is similar to a lit fuse—as the number of days tick down, the reader’s anxiety creeps up, until the book explodes. The character of Alaska is powerfully drawn—her haunted past, her wit, her beauty, her mood swings all draw the reader in, and when she’s gone, the pain is sharp. Readers will also identify with the realistic portrayals of the book’s other characters, most notably Miles and the Colonel, who share a banter that is both humorous and utterly believable. What I liked the most about Green’s Looking for Alaska was its ability to stir my own emotion and nostalgia in a way that only a few books can—I can feel Miles’ loss, I can smell Alaska’s vanilla and cigarette smell, and I long for the Great Perhaps of what could have been, if only she’d stayed.