I had very little idea what this book was about when I started to read it for my book club.
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (François Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.
On the one hand, this was a book about quirky kids at a boarding school, who have Something Very Bad happen, and they try to Deal With It. Even on that level, it is a good book. There are fun (and scary) pranks, there are boring classes where they learn more than they realize. There is smoking, drinking, and sex (or at least talk of it).
However, there is much more to Looking for Alaska.
Every time I try to write about it, I fail.
Just know this is a book with many levels, from full out fun, to explorations of consequences of our actions, to the power of guilt (short and long term), to examination of questions about the meaning of life. The language ranged from crude to beautiful. The structure was unusual, and really worked for me.
This was a really good book.
I read this book for my Book Club L. Everyone liked it, and we had a good discussion. Interestingly, even after we seemed to have wrapped up the book portion of our meeting, we kept coming back to some idea the book had left us with, or another aspect of the book that we wanted to explore.
I brought the Penguin Book Club Reading Guide, which was helpful– the author interview had answers to several questions that arose during the discussion.
Another book club member brought this great blog post from a very articulate young woman. She’s got a warning around the major spoilers that make up the majority of her post, but if you’ve read the book (or don’t care about spoilers) I’d suggest checking it out.