I just finished reading Looking for Alaska, making it the fifth John Green book I've read, after Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Let It Snow, The Fault In Our Stars, and An Abundance of Katherines. I enjoyed Looking for Alaska immensely, just like I did the other three. (My favorite being Let It Snow, which he wrote with two other authors as a set of three related short stories.) I haven't made a habit out of reading young adult fiction, but for John Green I'll definitely make an exception. I should also pick up some of Maureen Johnson's books; her contribution to Let It Snow was excellent.
I have a confession to make before I go any further: I am a Nerdfighter. I was introduced to John and Hank Green about two years ago by one of my best friends, by way of Crash Course. Since then I've (almost!) caught up on their Vlogbrother videos, watched most of the Crash Course videos (sorry Hank, I'm just not into chemistry) and started watching Sci Show. John and Hank are both extremely educated, well spoken, and yet extremely entertaining and fun to watch. Watching the vlogbrothers episodes where John talks about writing the books (as he's writing them!) is what finally made me go pick up his books to read. And he's GOOD.
In Looking for Alaska, Miles Halter goes away to boarding school at Culver Creek, his father's alma mater. He's in search of his “great perhaps,” his meaning for life. (The phrase comes from Francois Rabelais' last words “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” Miles doesn't want to wait until he dies to go in search of his.) Culver Creek really marks a turning point in Miles' life - from a friendless outcast in his old school to one of the closest friends of Alaska Young. Alaska is a bit of a bad girl (sneaking cigarettes and alcohol into school constantly and pulling ingenious pranks) but also an enigma. The entire school body loves her, but even to her closest friends she doesn't reveal much about herself.
The book is divided into “before” and “after” and it wasn't until within a few pages till the end of the “before” section that I realized what the event was. “After” deals with the characters of the book coming to terms with their life-altering event.
In The Fault In Our Stars, John Green dealt with the lead up to a life-altering event that the characters knew was coming - a long, drawn-out sort of grief. Looking For Alaska deals with the fallout of an event no one knew was coming, and while the emotions are just as deep, they feel sharper somehow for being so unexpected.
I definitely recommend this book, and all of John Green's books. He's a very talented writer, and isn't afraid to put “adult” themes into his “young adult” books. As if sex and alcohol and death and deep meaning-of-life questions aren't things every teenager deals with? I like that he doesn't pull his emotional punches. His books may be “young adult” but they're not fluffy or “easy to read.” Easy in terms of grammar and flow perhaps, but not in content. I teared up reading parts of Looking For Alaska, and outright sobbed for a good portion of The Fault In Our Stars. (Which is now being made into a movie!)
You can find all my reviews at Goddess in the Stacks.