When Miles Halter convinces his parents to allow him to attend boarding school, his main goal is to get away from his mundane existence at his former school and to possibly discover his own "Great Perhaps." What he actually gains, however, is far beyond his hopes: a new circle of friends, an entry into the delights of the opposite sex, a nasty taste for cigarettes, and an education that exceeds academics. Oh, and yes, Alaska. Alaska, the girl of his dreams, close yet distant, devious but devoted, sad but confident. But will Miles ever really know her?
John Green is a master storyteller, and Looking for Alaska is no exception. Miles is a fascinating protagonist: his penchant for learning the last words of famous people, his need to belong, his devotion all set him apart from most characters in other writers' novels. The story itself is tragic, hopeful, desperate, funny, and convincing but nowhere does it shine so much as it does whenever Alaska is featured. This is a character so many will identify with and yet feel so distant from, and as her layers are revealed, both Miles and the reader find themselves revealed as well.
One of my favorite things about John Green is that he never writes down for his young adult audience; he infuses his stories with references and statements that will enlighten as well as entertain. Be forewarned, however, that is a young adult novel and as such, is filled with terms and situations that are probably more appropriate for a more mature teen. However, there is so much to be gained from reading Looking for Alaska that reservations about minor content should be set aside. This is a tough look at young love, young loss, and relationships and it is highly, highly recommended.