Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles Halter loves famous last words. He is on his way to Culver Creek Boarding School in pursuit of "the Great Perhaps" (the last words spoken by the poet Francois Rabelais). Miles is hoping that a change in scenery will lead him out of his safe and boring existence, and into something extraordinary. Upon arriving at Culver Creek he meets his new roommate Chip, a.k.a. Colonel, and receives a new nickname, "Pudge." But it is meeting the girl down the hall, Alaska Young, that will forever change his life. Alaska is beautiful, sexy, smart, self-destructive, and screwed up, and comes to personify the "Great Perhaps" for Pudge. But Alaska is a beautiful disaster and Pudge cannot save her from herself. Meeting Alaska has Pudge questioning everything he knows about friendship, love, loyalty, life, death, and what it means to live.

This book made me think about people and how I truly believe that everyone we meet comes into our lives for a reason. Some people seem inconsequential at the time, mere ripples, but they are important. Often these are the people who help to redirect you to where you are supposed to go - like in a game of pool when the ball you are aiming for bounces of another and into the side pocket. You might never had made that shot had it not been for the interceding ball, just as you never would have arrived at your destination had it not been for that person. Other people are waves and their impact on your life is profound and obvious. You are irrevocably different for having known this person - good or bad. But having meet this person means that you can never return to life as you have known it because the world is forever altered and will never look the same. Alaska was definitely a wave.

It also made me think about the purpose of life. Is it better to live a small, but happy existence or is "it worth it to leave behind a minor life for grander maybes?" I don't think there is anything wrong with a small life, but I imagine that one could come to regret the possibilities that could have been. On the other hand, a life full of grander maybes might be exciting, but moving from one adventure to the other might lack the security and calm of a small life. An endless adrenaline rush with no meaning. Maybe the "Great Perhaps" is finding the balance between the two. A life full of enough maybes to have been worth living, but small enough for those maybes to actually mean something.

I often found myself forgetting that these characters were in fact in high school. They seemed much more like college students to me. The story is well written and I really do enjoy John Green's style. The characters are smart, witty, and just dysfunctional enough to be believable. The story is thought provoking and well worth the read.

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