Reynje's Reviews > Alaska

Alaska by Sue Saliba
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bookshelves: read-2011, australian, young-adult, cover-loving, contemp-or-realistic

3.5 stars

Some books shout from the page, strident and bold, demanding to be heard.

Other books whisper in your ear. Almost as if to say: ‘Come closer. I have something to tell you.’ So you lean in, sink into the words, and let yourself be submerged.

Alaska is one of the latter. It is a quiet, seemingly simple story, with great emotional depth beneath the plot. The prose is spare, yet somehow heavy – every sentence feels deliberate and significant, each word carefully chosen, rich with meaning. There is something almost dream-like about the experience of reading this book – the lyrical flow, the delicate handling of the dialogue, the beauty of the language.

While the lack of capitalisation, the short paragraphs and the shifts from past to present initially take some getting used to, they feel fitting for the unfolding of Mia’s story.

Travelling from Australia to Alaska in the wake of her mother’s hospitalisation, Mia discovers love and beauty – in people and her surroundings – and must ultimately decide whether to follow her heart, whatever direction it may lead her in.

The subjects of alcoholism, depression, romantic and familial love – and the way Mia perceives these – are explored honestly without being heavy handed or melodramatic. In particular, the passages that deal with mental illness feel achingly real and insightful. While yet a young woman beginning to figure out her way into the future and experiencing all the accompanying uncertainty, it is here that Mia shows her depth of understanding and empathy.

I loved how the aspect of distance was explored in Mia’s relationships, both geographically and emotionally, and what it means to be close to someone. Or to discover that someone may not be exactly who or what we believe (or want) them to be. The bonds between Mia and her mother and sister, from childhood to the present, were a little bit heartbreaking in their realism.

Alaska is a gentle story of a girl’s self-discovery through connection with her surroundings and finding something to believe in. It's a moving portrayal of courage and what it means to love. Absolutely beautiful.

(I also have to mention the cover. It is stunning - I keep picking it up and tilting it in the light. Perfect for the story within.)
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Reading Progress

July 5, 2011 – Shelved
July 6, 2011 – Started Reading
July 7, 2011 –
page 23
July 7, 2011 –
page 43
23.24% "This is beautiful. Spare, yet heavy.. I can't really define it."
July 8, 2011 –
page 67
July 9, 2011 –
page 204
July 9, 2011 – Shelved as: australian
July 9, 2011 – Shelved as: read-2011
July 9, 2011 – Finished Reading
July 28, 2011 – Shelved as: young-adult
September 26, 2011 – Shelved as: cover-loving
February 13, 2012 – Shelved as: contemp-or-realistic

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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Aly (Fantasy4eva) beautiful review as always :) Any particular reason it wasn't quite a four star read?

Reynje Thanks Aly :) I originally did go with four - it's very unusually written and lovely - but in hindsight, it was lacking a little something for me to totally love it. I loved the characters stories, but didn't feel totally connected to them the whole way through..

message 3: by Jo (new) - added it

Jo I like books that whisper.
Although occasionally I like books that grab me by my lapels (It's the only reason why I wear shirts with lapels!) and demand my attention.
I just like books.
Also, I love this review.
Lovely :)

Jess I really didn't like the story. I feel it has something to do with the formatting. I just couldn't get used to the no-capitalisation, and the paragraphs that varied from single-spaced to double-spaced for no apparent reason. I just couldn't get my head around it.

The cover, though... man, it is gorgeous!!!!!

Wendy Darling Hm, I'm glad to hear more opinions. I've been salivating after this book for awhile after reading a couple of raves (and about the gorgeous cover), but I was hesitant since I'm not a huge fan of books in verse anyway. Great review, always! I'm not sure it's worth investing in shipping all the way from Australia for me, then.

Reynje Wendy - I'm pretty sure Nomes has a copy of Alaska on her swap shelf if you're still interested - it might be a simpler option than ordering it from an online retailer? This is not technically written in verse - but the formatting, style and sentence structure does take some getting used to..

Jess - I eventually got used to the formatting, but I know what you mean - it took me a while to settle in :)

Jo - I like books that whipser. Books that yell. Books that sneak up on me. Even books that punch me in the face! But not books that insult my intelligence - they can just stay on the shelf. (You should have a GR shelf called: Books that grabbed me by the lapels and wouldn't let go!)

message 7: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Beautiful review, Reynje! I’m looking forward to diving into these pages. :)

Reynje Laura wrote: "Beautiful review, Reynje! I’m looking forward to diving into these pages. :)"

Thanks Laura :) Hope you enjoy it!

Jenna Lovely review! I want to like it but I see I already have!

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