Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Looking for Alaska, by John Green, is split in two parts, "Before" and "After." "Before" starts the story of a boy named Miles Halter and his search for The Great Perhaps. Miles lives in Florida with his parents and leads a boring life with no real friends, social life, or anything to look forward to. When given the opportunity to go to his father's legacy, Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama, he goes to "seek a Great Perhaps," which were François Rabelais's last words. Miles reads biographies to learn about peoples' last words. When he gets to Culver Creek, Miles meets his roommate, Chip "The Colonel" Martin. The Colonel then renames Miles Pudge with irony because Miles is so thin. Shortly after Pudge arrives, his friendship with the Colonel introduces him to Alaska Young, who Pudge almost immediately develops a crush on. That night, Pudge is duct-taped and thrown into a pond on the grounds by the "Weekday Warriors," rich students who live in the area, for no other reason but that the Colonel is Pudge's roommate. This infuriates Alaska and the Colonel and an all-out prank war ensues. The war forges a wonderful friendship between the Colonel, Alaska, Pudge, and their friends Takumi and Lara. Pudge feels like he's getting to the Great Perhaps because his life is full of new danger with his on-campus underage drinking and smoking.
Pudge continues to have a huge crush on Alaska, and while she makes it known she is dating a college student, she often flirts with Pudge and lets him know she thinks he is attractive. After a drinking game, Alaska tells her friends that when she was eight, her mother had a brain aneurysm, and, in a shocked state, she watched her mother die instead of calling 911. Though her father eventually forgave her, she carries that guilt forever.
A few weeks or so later, Pudge, the Colonel, and Alaska are playing Truth or Dare after having way too much to drink, however Pudge is sober. Pudge and Alaska have a moment and they kiss. Alaska falls asleep, but is awakened by the phone ringing. After a few minutes, she comes into the room sobbing and saying that she is sorry and she has to leave. The Colonel and Pudge distract the teachers and allow Alaska to drive off-campus, thinking nothing of it.
"After" begins with Pudge and the Colonel being shuffled into the auditorium to be told that Alaska was in a car crash and passed away that night. The rest of the novel is Pudge and the Colonel trying to find out why Alaska had to leave that night.
1. Alaska constantly flirts with Pudge and the night she disappears they share an intimate moment. Alaska tells him she’s tired and says, “To be continued.” How would you feel if you were falling in love with someone, finally got their attention, only to have them ripped away?
2. One of the themes in this book is the tension between the well-off and the impoverished. Why can’t rich and poor live together in peace?
3. Alaska always talked about life being a “labyrinth of suffering” and how to escape it. What do you think is the best way to escape; go straight through, or go with the twists and turns?