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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Looking for Alaska - John Green Hoo boy. I have many Things To Say about Looking for Alaska. Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad book—it’s very much a first novel. There’s some things that I wish could have been handled better, and some of the characterization does need work in this. As my sister would say, “Alaska is really an after-school special with more sex and drinking.” There’s really no new ground being broken with the concept, and in the hands of a lesser writer, it could have come off as exceedingly sappy. But I think the reason that makes this book work is the acknowledgement of guilt from all of the characters involved. Guilt that Miles and the Colonel could have done something, that Takumi should have said something earlier, that Alaska’s death could have been prevented. There are parts of “Why/how could this happen to someone who was so alive?” but it doesn’t shy away from the fact that life is unfair and teens are just as human as anyone else. They screw up, and they’ll have to live with the consequences of that screw-up. I like that there’s no real reason why things happen the way they do; it just does, and you can guess what the reasons are, but you’ll never know what truly happened.If there’s anything that I have the most to say about, it’s Alaska herself. I really don’t like her, to be honest. She’s got a sympathetic backstory, but then we see her continuously toying with Miles’s affections and cultivating her persona to be mysterious and quirky. I know there’s a lot of criticism slammed against Alaska that she’s set up to be perfect, but she’s really not. The problem is that we’re seeing her through Miles’s eyes, and he’s so in love with her that he’s willing to forgive Alaska’s less-than-noble intentions to cultivate his fantasy. It’s even called out by the others,“All that matters is you and your precious fucking fantasy that you and Alaska had this goddamned secret love affair and she was going to leave Jake for you and you’d live happily ever after…And if you loved her so much, why’d you help her go?” (pgs 170-171)(Personally, I think that if Miles and Alaska had ended up in a relationship, it would have ended badly on all sides, with Miles wondering why did he ever think that Alaska was his dream girl.)Where the strength lies in this is the friendship Miles forms with everyone else. I like their camadarie, and the roles that everyone plays in Alaska and the Colonel’s schemes. Takumi’s pretty much a badass, and I love that he’s the first of the characters to cut through the bullshit. And I like that while he wants nothing to do with chasing ghosts, he’s got his own secrets to hide. If there’s a weak link in the group dynamic, I would have loved to have seen more done with Lara. She really only exists as Alaska’s foil, and she’s not even a very strong one at that. There really could have been more done with her rather than just supporting Miles and being sweet. The Colonel’s one of the more complex characters in the group—I like his backstory, I like his reasons for doing the things that he does. Of all four of the main group, I think he’s the only one who truly cares about Alaska, and the only one to have seen her with her defenses down. (And much like Miles, they don’t end up in a relationship because it’ll end badly on all sides.) His grief felt the most real to me, and I’d been interested in seeing more of his perspective throughout the book. And the bond between the five characters does feel very natural and strong—so when one of them is suddenly gone, the friends drifting apart feels like the natural thing to do. I do think that this is a good book, but it’s very much a debut book. I really don’t recommend starting with this one when starting John Green, as compared to his more recent works, Alaska is very weak. It is worth the read, but after being exposed to some better writing.