Miles Halter’s life has always been fine; but that’s not enough anymore. As an aficionado of famous last words, he knows that the life he’s living is unlikely to be very memorable. He’s seeking the “Great Perhaps” that François Rabelais spoke of on his deathbed. So he moves from Florida to Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama. And he finds what he was looking for.
Culver Creek is a world apart. It’s a world of social class rivalries, elaborate pranks, and a new group of friends that revolutionize Miles entirely (and rename him Pudge). They are edgy, intelligent, and maybe a little out of control. And then there’s Alaska Young, who is more alive, more beautiful, and more intoxicating than anyone he’s ever known. But things that burn too hot and fast can’t sustain themselves forever. When Pudge learns that really engaging with life means being vulnerable to great pain as well as great joy, he is faced with spiritual dilemmas that have captivated generations of thinkers.
This was my serious attempt to climb onto the John Green train that I missed when he became the king of everything. Am I on the train? I don’t know, so I guess not, because I don’t think there’d be a question if I was. Did I like the book? Ultimately, yes.
It all comes down to this: I do. Not. Like. Sad. Books. I just do not.
And there was a period in Looking for Alaska where it was a sad book. And I understood why, but I didn’t like it. And that’s not a value judgment at all, it’s just me. But then it came out of the dark space, and it started to make sense of the sadness, and I, along with the characters, was able to step back and appreciate the story again. And ultimately, I was left feeling uplifted, in that cathartic way. The ending of the book and the main character’s final soliloquy had me filled with awe for life and the universe and such. I read it for a class, and I think I would have felt more negative and unable to deal with it if that hadn’t been the case. The assignment aspect helped me get to the detached place.
John Green has a way of making things important. He’s one of those authors with characters that you want to listen to. He is also the master of the quirky character gambit. Each of the characters in LFA are full of color in their own way. I enjoyed, for example, hearing the various noteworthy last words of famous people that Pudge has memorized. I also liked that supporting characters who were originally presented as flat and unimportant came to reassert themselves as round human beings with their own desires and problems. They seemed to be written that way to intentionally send a message: we view most of the people in our lives as cardboard scenery in our life stories, but every single person that we see has an entire world and existence just as complete as ours.
I thought this book was very deep, and very genuine. I believed in the characters, and was gripped by the story, and it gives a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas that would be great to have a discussion about. It certainly made me feel something, or a lot of things. If there’s one thing I’m willing to say definitively about John Green, it’s that he has writing talent. Also, I think I liked this one better than Paper Towns. But it might take a reread to say for sure.
In case anyone was wondering, I still refuse to read The Fault in our Stars.