Reviewing Looking for Alaska is relevant for two reasons. The first is that John Green has a new book coming out next month called Turtles All the Way Down. [His older books are likely receiving a resurgence in popularity because of Turtles All the Way Down.] It’s also Banned Books Week in the U.S., and Looking for Alaska is a frequently challenged book as reported by ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. It made the Top 10 Most Challenged Books list in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016, with the book taking the number one spot in 2015.
The tough part about discussing Looking for Alaska in a review is avoiding spoilers. A “before” and “after” pattern frames the entire book, with a huge incident happening between the two sections. The incident is too late in the book to not be a spoiler, but too early for it not to have huge ramifications on most of the plot.
I usually appreciate a John Green book, even if I don’t love it, because he has a habit of making the overused tropes of literary classics new again. He doesn’t follow typical plot patterns with these tropes, and that makes the plot more enjoyable than I would expect.
Looking for Alaska was John Green’s first published book, and has the distinction of being a bit wilder than his other books. Miles, Alaska, Colonel and the rest of their friends do everything parents don’t want their teens at boarding school to do. You get some of that with other Green books, but not as much.
Like all other John Green books, there’s a deeper question and/or metaphor at the center of it. Looking for Alaska focuses on making the most of life after a tragic death. (The Fault in Our Stars does the opposite, and instead focuses on making the most of life before death.) This type of literary effort makes me believe if Green remains relevant for a few decades, his books might eventually be considered classics.
And after all this explaining you might not know yet if I liked this specific book. The answer is yes. Better than An Abundance of Katherines but not as good as The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t read his other books yet in order to rank them. (But I plan to!)
Let’s leave you with a question (or two): Do you like John Green’s books? If yes, which one is your favorite? Share your opinion in the comments section below!