Looking For Alaska is my third foray into John Green’s novels. I was expecting to be taken on an emotional journey, but in the end I was left sorely disappointed. This book was nowhere near as good as I thought it was going to be, especially considering the number of four and five star reviews to its name.
The format was engaging, with the idea of counting down days ‘Before’ something happens and then the same ‘After’ working really well here, because it made you want to read on. Some of what saved this book from an even lower rating than I eventually settled on was the slightly mysterious slant that the book took in the ‘After’ section. As much as I would have liked a clear ending, the ambiguity of the events that transpired actually endeared me to it in the end because it leaves the reader to make up their own mind. Reading about people’s last words was also interesting, and there were some well written speeches and several clever lines, but the quality just wasn’t consistent.
The biggest issue here was the characters. Miles was dull despite Green’s attempts to make him interesting, and his obsession with Alaska got old really quickly. Alaska herself was alright, and I personally didn’t have an issue with her promiscuity or whatever, and I liked her complexity, but the way she strung people along wound me up after a while. I can see how Green intended for her to be a beautiful, mysterious outcast, but she ended up becoming a massive cliché. The supporting characters weren’t much better (with the exception of Lara, who I thought was great), and that was a let-down, particularly after reading Paper Towns where the minor characters were engaging to read about.
While I think about it, I didn’t get the unrealistic obsession with nicknames either. The most exotic my friends and I get with such things are when we use our surnames for a laugh. And never in my life have I heard teenagers talk like they do in John Green books! The conversations are contrived and pretentious and make me want to roll my eyes so hard they feel like they might roll out of my head. Also, I couldn’t relate to any of the experiences the group went through at all. The drinking wasn’t a problem, but the relationship many of the characters had with smoking didn’t sit well with me. Then again, maybe my own life experiences have influenced my opinions on that; I don’t know.
Additionally, the big reveal was agonisingly predictable. I can’t quite tell if this is intentional on the author’s part or not, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise. Luckily I found the aftermath of the reveal to be the most engaging part, so I wasn’t too gutted about that.
In the end I gave Looking For Alaska one star. If you asked me to sum it up in one word, I’d use ‘underwhelming’. When I put the book down there was a twinge of relief that it was over, which basically stemmed from the fact that it wasn’t a particularly satisfying read. If you’re a diehard John Green fan and thinking of picking this up then I’d say go for it, otherwise I’d suggest reading Paper Towns or The Fault in Our Stars instead.