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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Looking For Alaska by John Green | Book Review

This is the second book I've read by John Green and the first one he had published. It was a huge change of pace from the books I usually read which are often science fiction adventures or fat epic fantasy novels. I love this book for its differences. It was very literary and at the same time portrays a very realistic and frank rendering of high school age teenagers. There's a lot of cursing and drinking and smoking, and a lot of thoughtful witty dialog between smart funny characters.

It was a simple story with a lot of complex emotions going on which made it fun and rewarding to read. Some very deep things are contemplated in this story, and some very realistic teenage drama is there too. It's about a kid who transfers from a normal high school to a prep school. He moves away from home and lives at this school changing from a life devoid of friends to a life full of smart interesting people. They influence him a lot and he changes a great deal by the end of the book. You could call this a bit of a coming of age story though it's about much more than that. So that's the simple story but in that story are all the messy emotions and thoughts of teenagers. The way the main character, his friends, and enemies see the world is ever expanding and changing. The things the characters deal with leave them trying to find truths to cling to in an uncertain world. Without spoiling anything I'll just say that the characters have to deal with a tragedy that is very close to home. The story doesn't follow a path you would expect.

I loved how this young adult story was told in first person. You get to know the main character so well. He blossoms as a person through the course of this story. At the beginning he's kind of like plain vanilla and by the end he is one of the most fully rendered characters I've ever had the pleasure to read and the same goes with his friends. As I'm trying to think about this unique story I'm realizing how much of an enigma it seems to be to me. It's a very small story, and yet it's a very big story. It's about a handful of characters making their way through the school year where they live together at a prep school. The things that go on emotionally with these characters is huge and I think the fact that they're teenagers turns that emotional dial to 11. So you get to know these characters really well and when something small happens to them it's a huge deal. Then when something really huge happens the story is not over and you get to see how they deal with a massive event that anyone no matter what age would have a really hard time dealing with. That's all I'm going to say because I don't want to spoil any of the story.

There were many pranks and antics in this story and those scenes were easily some of the most fun. Seeing the planning that went down and how they either pulled it off or not (no spoilers). One other funny thing about this book was that all the characters are much smarter than your average teenager and yet they smoke and drink and do things you wouldn't want your teenagers to do. This juxtaposition was kind of weird and funny but it worked. A character reads through an Almanac memorizing facts while drinking and smoking in his dorm room. They're people with interesting and surprisingly profound things to say and at the same time they're sneaking off to smoke and drink. So their kind of like ivy league trouble makers. I don't know it was just an interesting part of the story.

So yeah, it's a main character making new friends away from home for the first time living at a prep school. He and his new close friends experience a huge event and have to figure out how to try and deal with it. It's devastating. Even when they were just becoming friends and going to class and sneaking off to smoke I was into the story the whole time. John Green has a great writing style. There were so many amazing lines in this book that made me nod my head in appreciation of his writing chops. One of my favorite lines was:
"So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane."

I can't wait to read John's other books. I've already read The Fault in Our Stars and loved it. I'm glad I still have more books of his to read for the first time. If the two books I've read so far are any indication than I'm sure I'm in for something real, impactful, and awesome.

Have you read this book? What about other books by John Green? Love them? Hate them? Tell me why in the comments. Thanks for stopping by.

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