Old Favourites: Looking for Alaska

kicks off our new literature series by explaining why she thinks we should all be re-reading John Green’s 2005 debut novel

The recent news of the long awaited TV adaptation of John Green’s coming-of-age novel ‘Looking for Alaska’ has caused a stir in internet forums everywhere. Thirteen years after its initial publication, Alaska Young will finally come to life on our television screens, no doubt rekindling everyone’s secret love for Green’s angsty teenage stories. Though many are undoubtedly excited that such a popular book is making a resurgence, this has invited criticisms from readers who have been more vocally dismissive of Green’s teen page-turner. Some felt they couldn’t connect to the characters due to the book’s relatively short length, others argued the plot lacked good pacing and failed to keep their interest, and while most praised Green’s writing style, several readers commented on his overuse of clichés and repetitive personalities. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. To someone reading the book for the first time, it may appear slightly juvenile and, at times, stereotypical, yet after rereading and contemplating the book it becomes clear that the story goes far beyond archetypal characters and conventional tropes, revealing a moving, realistic and impressive narrative.

Credit: Amazon.in

Though Green often emphasises weighty themes such as trauma, heartache, love and loss in almost all of his popular novels, Looking for Alaska has a timeless and sincere quality to it; it’s engaging, it’s touching, and above all, it’s relatable. The book is poetic and heavily character-driven, the plot is well thought out and maintains a clever balance between light-hearted humour and heart-wrenching sadness. It’s clear that this tale isn’t your typical teenage love story from the get-go, which makes it all the more captivating and mysterious.

 It’s true, the book has its fair share of clichés. The misunderstood, unpopular, yet endearing protagonist, Miles/“Pudge” moves to a Floridian boarding school and immediately falls for the beautiful, rebellious and enigmatic Alaska, an unrequited love tope we’ve all seen hundreds of times before. Yet Pudge and Alaska maintain an interesting dynamic throughout the story, sparking a typical ‘will-they-won’t-they’ narrative that becomes charming rather than infuriating for the reader. Looking for Alaska provides a realistic take on teenage life- the characters deal with relatableand common adolescent issues including school, partying and pranks- whilst incorporating deeper themes such as guilt, forgiveness, and grief. This synthesis of youthful innocence and real-world issues is especially important I think in literature today. It attracts a sense of realism within the novel by crafting an unpredictable narrative, taking the reader on an emotional journey throughout the duration of the story.

 Though often written-off as a stereotypical teenage drama, Looking for Alaska is a book I think we should all pick up and read again. It teaches us important life lessons about friendship, growing into your own person, and living life to the fullest, and it does this by highlighting the fragility and unpredictability of life. The book is brutally honest and real, it doesn’t shy away from certain topics and doesn’t create an alternative reality too far off from our own. Perhaps this is why the book has been both so negatively and positively received; teenagers and literary organisations have praised the complexity of the issues explored within the novel, yet conversely several schools have banned the book due to parental outrage and fear of teenagers being influenced to smoke, drink and have relationships. But isn’t that what makes a book so interesting? Clearly the book has evoked some serious emotional responses from people everywhere, sparking discussions and inviting divided opinions amongst readers.

 Looking for Alaska demands your attention, allows you to feel emotion and relate to the characters, making it a timeless story that stays with you and prompts you to pick it up and read it over and over again.