**spoiler alert** I read Looking For Alaska for a couple of reasons: I wanted to read something that was assigned in high schools now, which I had mis...more**spoiler alert** I read Looking For Alaska for a couple of reasons: I wanted to read something that was assigned in high schools now, which I had missed out on during my own high school career, and I had never read a John Green novel. I'm not a fan of John Green as a person, but people rave about his writing, and I like to have a fully informed opinion. Looking For Alaska killed two birds with one stone.
That said... Green is a good writer. He has a way with words. I'll grant him that. And he writes realistically. Miles, Alaska, the Colonel are all very realistic teenagers, and I understand why teen readers find them compelling. However, just because a character is realistic doesn't mean they are interesting or enjoyable.
Maybe it's me reading with my grumpy adult eyes, but the only characters I liked were Lara and Takumi, and they both get treated like garbage by the main three. They also are only as fleshed out as they are important to Miles at the moment, because he's completely self-centered, in the worst sort of woe is me, I'm a Nice Guy way.
Miles is completely obsessed with Alaska, who was not quite the manic pixie dreamgirl I thought she'd be, though that may be because we only see her through Miles' eyes, and his main concerns are that she's hot and she thrills him by breaking the rules of the school. That's it. We learn more about Alaska posthumously than we do when she is on the page, and that's only because the Colonel forces the issue with his 'investigation'. Miles doesn't really care who Alaska is as a person, because her value to him is in this Ideal Girl that she represents. The last time Miles sees Alaska, she's drunk, he's not, and he makes out with her despite him having a girlfriend and her having a boyfriend- and then he angsts about it for the rest of the book. Not because he feels badly for cheating on Lara, or for potentially causing Alaska distress, but because maybe she was The One and then she had to go and die, and now he'll never get to run off into the sunset with her.
Miles' relationship with the Colonel is not much better. He mostly likes the Colonel because he gives Miles access to Alaska. Obviously the Colonel has stuff going on- he comes from poverty, is at school on a scholarship, and is very intelligent, yet he's also drunk most of the time (also, vodka and milk? bleccccccch). Of course, Miles doesn't dig deeply into whatever is up with his roommate, because he's too busy obsessing about how to get into Alaska's pants. It's very frustrating.
I've given away the big twist here, of course. Alaska dies- drunk driving, how lovely- and the second half of the book is about Miles and the Colonel trying to determine if her death was an accident or a suicide, before ultimately deciding they'll never know and it doesn't matter. Her death has taught Miles something about himself, after all, and that's clearly what really matters.
Like I said, the book is well written. Green is able to capture teenage voices and thoughts and angst very well. He's able to set a scene and build a world that feels believable, and to capture those moments that matter so much when you're a teen- the great prank, the aftermath of a party when you're just talking to your friends, those first sexual experiences. I just wish he'd chosen a different teenager with a different story to tell.(less)
Obviously I enjoy Stephanie Perkins' writing. I tore through this book and I tore through her previous one, Anna and the French Kiss. But for the firs...moreObviously I enjoy Stephanie Perkins' writing. I tore through this book and I tore through her previous one, Anna and the French Kiss. But for the first 2/3 of this book, I did not enjoy the main character. Lola can be really insufferable. She wears outlandish costumes all the time. She wears culturally appropriative costumes more than once. She's rude to her parents. And she has terrible taste in boyfriends, at least at first. I was probably just as awful when I was a teenager, which is why I cut her some slack and kept reading.
The story is engaging, even if nothing much of anything, other than the relationship happens. Lola grows, and becomes a better version of herself, which was worth reading through the annoying!Lola bits. Her two dads are well characterized, realistic parents (although I feel like we got to know Andy much more than Nathan). I enjoyed travelling through San Francisco, a city I like very much. This book is a fun read, overall. I just wish I hadn't had to fight past my irritation with the main character for a good chunk of the book.(less)