This review might be 9 years in waiting but here it goes!
I started reading John Green‘s Looking for Alaska because I had heard wonderful things about The Fault in Our Stars and I wanted to start at the beginning of the publishing line with respect to Green’s novels. Much like I did with Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist, I didn’t want to start with Green’s most popular novel. I wanted to read his other works before tackling the one that made giant headlines.
While reading Looking for Alaska I felt as though I was at summer camp. Not because of plot or character but because of setting. The novel is set at a boarding school in Alabama, which happens to be based off of Green’s own high school boarding school. It felt like I was at summer camp because it is July and even though the characters are in school I felt transported to the setting with the swing by the lake, the forest surrounding the campus and the various activities, both legit and illicit that the characters indulge in. The funny thing is that I never went to summer camp beyond a few weekends away when I was a part of the Cub Scout movement.
The novel also reminded me of my first year of university which was spent in a dorm. The physical description is completely different, but the feeling was the same.
As for the actual content of the novel I was more focused on the characters than their experiences, which is to say I was more focused on my past experiences than what they were doing, but I was engrossed all the same. Green tells a great story. I only guessed the “twist” a couple pages before it happened and while initially I was emotionally shocked, I stepped back and gave John a writerly-nod for going the way he did plot-wise because it was character driven.
I liked the honesty of the book and I didn’t feel it was an adult writing teenagers. I connected with some of the emotions that the characters were feeling which begs me to ask the question of my 33 year old self…am I still emotionally a 16 year-old? Egads!
John is prolific on the internet and deserves an entire post just on his personal pursuits. In fact, besides the plot and success of The Fault in Our Stars I wanted to read John’s work because I admire his motivation to create. Specifically, I am inspired in many different ways by his “vlogbrothers” YouTube project (search it on YouTube – I tried to post it but WordPress is being annoying) with his brother Hank. Check it out and check out Looking for Alaska and his other work as well.