★★★★★/★★★★★ Looking for Alaska by John Green.
“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
I had barely heard of John Green, but when I saw this book for fifty cents at my local library, I picked it up, put it on my shelf and left it there for a few months. One night I sat in front of bookshelf, picked it up and read it in one sitting, the next day I recommended it to my friends, so far, they have all loved it, and to me still stands as the maximum and uppermost of John Green’s books.
The novel follows Pudge, a youth with a pastime of learning famous last words,Alaska, a clever and self-destructive youth, and the Colonel, another youth who is the mastermind behind some of Alaska’s plans. It is about their lives, and their friends, as they go through high school.
“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”
This is my favourite of his works, and here is why:
People always complain that the characters, his teen-aged characters, are way too smart. What kind of complaint is that? No, those people are imbeciles. It is not valid to simply say that because someone is young, they are not smart or knowledgeable enough. I actually felt close to these characters, it was a nice representation that I had not read a lot of before. I started reading at a very young age, I read books on chemistry and physics, I study philosophy on my spare time, politics are my jam, and a bunch of other “smart” things, and I am not the only teenager that does this or similar things. If we are not so smart at such a young age, then why are we thrown into the world at eighteen and expect to do things a “smart” adult is suppose to do? It is because we can make our choices, not all of us are perfect, but we are not mumbling idiots. Get off the high horse, I don’t think anyone in my family has ever said a teenager in any other work of literature, or young-adult, is too smart. Would someone say that about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce? Of course not, because it is a classic now, but it meets the criteria for young-adult. Are the characters in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott too stupid? Well, that is not what people say. Again, these are classics, so no one would dare insult the authors by claiming the teens are too smart. Teens that read Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Sign me up. Teens that love Fyodor Dostoevsky? Sing me the hell up! Any Shakespeare play? Sign me the freaking hell up!!! Please, read a bit more varied, it might help get off that pedestal in which they have put themselves on, since no one else did.
He destroys the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Yes, I know I sound ridiculous, but I truly believe he does. According to Wikipedia, a MPDG is “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.“ This has been interpreted as any female character that is there for the sake of the development of the male, with the twist that since the female character cannot grow, neither can the male lead, so they are stuck in a loop. Have people that said this read the book at all? It is as ridiculous as saying The Fault In Our Stars glorifies illness. Women cannot have any quirks whatsoever or they are compared to MPDG, particularly Alaska, who is unpredictable and intelligent. Alaska reads books: “Have you really read all those books in your room?” “Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.” She must therefore be too quirky for her own good. She is complex, not a two-dimension image. Alaska is her own character, she does make the other characters grow, she grows herself, she has other motives besides dating, she is not a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Go and seek your great perhaps with this novel, I will wait for this to become a classic, I am patient, I will wait.
Now onto the spoiler part, so please do not read ahead unless you have already read the book or are okay with spoilers.
Alaska dies, like she is honestly dead. At first I was angry at this, because I did not understand why she had to die. But after a while I understood, she is not like Margo from Paper Towns, her true ending needed to be this. I mean we are talking about a girl that smoke to die faster, it was always meant to be her end. But the matter of her death is another thing. Did she kill herself or was it truly an accident? We will never know, here is why:
I knew when I started the book that we would never be inside Blue Citrus with her that night, and so I still don’t have any idea what happened to Alaska.
Darn you Green!!! Stop writing good books!!!