This week’s installment of Favorite Titles Friday comes to you courtesy of John Green and his amazing Young Adult novels. I honestly believe he is one of the greatest YA novelists of our time, because his understanding of the teen years that end up defining us as adults is an honest and real portrayal of the way teens feel and think. When you fall in love at 16, or your get your heartbroken, it feels as though your entire world has been turned upside down and John Green’s characters share a universal quality that we can all relate to.
I think most would assume my favorite book of his is “The Fault In Our Stars,” because it truly is an amazing novel that was turned into an amazing film, but my favorite is “Looking For Alaska.” The raw emotion that book evokes in the reader hits you like a gut punch. One of my favorite quotes I’ve ever read in a book is one from Looking For Alaska, I loved so much I even took the quote and wrote a song around it. (I’ll share it someday)
It’s not the full quote that gets me, it’s the last bit. “If people were rain, I was a drizzle and she was a hurricane.” It almost even sounds like a song lyric. It’s truly a beautiful and accurate description of the characters. I was really upset when I found out that there were people who didn’t think this book was appropriate for high-schoolers and tried to have it banned due to the profanity, underage drinking, and sexually explicit scenes in the book.
My retort to that is: Parents, if you don’t think your high school aged children don’t curse, drink or party or whatever, and don’t have sex…you’re kidding yourself. Of course, I am ten years removed from being in high school, so I’m not exactly the best source of information on this topic, but with social media and the popularity of hookup culture in our society (which is gross, I’m sorry, but it is) this book is tame compared to what teens these days are actually doing.
Anyway, back to Looking for Alaska. The book is about a teenager named Miles Halter, a kid obsessed with the last words ever spoken by famous people, who decides to leave his hometown in Florida to attend Culver Creek Prepatory High school in Alabama. (Fun fact: Desi Arnaz, famously known for playing Ricky Ricardo on the famous sitcom I Love Lucy, spoke his last words to Lucille Ball over the phone. Although they had been divorced for a while by then and had both remarried, his last words were: “I love you, Lucy.” He died less than an hour later.) Inspired by the last words of Francois Rabelais’s last words: “I go to seek a great perhaps,” Miles believes that he will find what he feels is missing in his life during his junior year at his new school. He becomes fast friends with his roommate, Chip Martin, who is inexplicably nick-named “The Colonel.” He gives Miles a nick-name of his own, Pudge, meant to be ironic since Miles is tall and thin, and introduces him to his friends Takumi, and a beautiful girl named Alaska Young. When Miles shares with his friends his obsession with the last words of famous people, Alaska offers him the last words of Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan leader: “Damn it. How will I ever make it out of this labyrinth?” Upon discussing this, Alaska makes a deal with Pudge that if he can figure out what the labyrinth’s significance is in Bolivar’s last words, she will help him find a girlfriend. Pudge develops a pretty huge crush on Alaska, and becomes infatuated with her.
On Pudge’s first night at Culver, he is forcibly taken from his room by a group of students known as the “Weekday Warriors” and thrown into a lake because they believe that The Colonel and his friends were responsible for getting their friend expelled. The Colonel and his friends take up for Miles, citing that one of their friends had also been expelled.
After the drama of his first night, Pudge settles into is life at his new school with his new friends and is even set up on a date, which ends up being a disaster of epic proportions. Pudge begins to really fall in love with Alaska, but also finds her extremely complicated due to her sometimes rash behavior, which makes her all the more mysterious and intriguing to Pudge.
Pudge continues to spend all of his free time with his friends, and even begins to date a girl named Lara although he’s truly in love with Alaska. Despite having a girlfriend, Pudge and Alaska continue to grow closer and learn more about each other. The more he learns about Alaska, the more her behavior makes sense to him until one night, Alaska begins to become hysterical and leaves in a rush. After that night, none of them will ever be the same and the group is left reeling and unable to deal with the heaviness of their emotions. Pudge especially is left destroyed by that night’s events, and becomes obsessed with the idea that if he can figure out what he determines to be clues, that he will reveal the truth behind what happened. But the more he tries, the more he remains perplexed and frustrated, and he is left with realizing that some things in life just happen for no reason and some people just can’t be saved.
This book is one that stays with you long after you’ve finished it, and is beautifully written. I love the way John Green takes on a story and doesn’t try and sugarcoat what being a teenager is like. I love all his books, but this one is my favorite and if you haven’t read it, you absolutely should.