It seems that with the movie “The Fault in Our Stars” coming out, everyone is reading John Green right now. I am no exception. I picked it up at a book store mainly because I kept seeing it around and continued to be intrigued by its acclaims and cover. I bought it without even realizing it was a young adult book.
For a young adult book, it was exceptionally well written and compelling. I was fascinated by this kid going off to your no-frills boarding school and his friendships at this school. The language was a bit more advanced than the young adult books I remember reading as a young adult, but was still very easy to read. I think it took me about a week to finish reading it.
At first the book seems like your typical young adult book where boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and girl may or may not like boy back. The main interesting facet of this tried and true (if not worn) was the actual characters themselves. The main character likes to memorize lack words of famous individuals, his roommate and best friend, the Colonel, suffers from little-man syndrome (Napoleon Complex) but is brilliant, and Alaska’s entire room is filled with books for her “life” library. These characters seemed very “real” and resonated with me.
My favorite part of the book, and the underlying theme I would say, is the question Alaska poses early on “how do we get out of the labyrinth?” This idea is fully addressed by the end of the book in the form of an essay the main character Pudge writes for his religious professor. To me, this question was very substantial because it really deals with life and death and the motivations of people as we live and eventually die.
The characters experience a loss, possibly their first lost in their lives, and do not know how to handle it. For them, that labyrinth was their grief. How to move past a loss without forgetting the person they lose. To move past is not to forget, instead it is to accept what happened and not let it continue to affect your own well being. This lesson is hard to learn, and at times adults cannot do this, let alone children with their ability to reason not fully formed yet. To deal with their loss, they decide to investigate the loss to their best ability, to figure out WHY it happened.
I feel that as humans we bolster through life trying to figure out WHY something happens and then how to deal with it. How to deal with how to get out of the labyrinth. Looking for the way out, but never realizing the question is not how to find the way out, but how to survive while you are there. Life is definitely a labyrinth, a tricky maze with pits and hills to traverse without irreparably damaging yourself, and if you are the kind of person I hope you are, without irreparably damaging others.
“Looking for Alaska” was definitely a pleasant surprise. It was more than the typical underdog teenager comes to age romance like a vast majority of young adult books, it was an exploration of life and death and coming to terms with both.