I didn’t particularly want to write a review for this book, and I certainly didn’t read through it with the intention of critically trying to find ways in which I can downplay it (which, admittedly, I am guilty of doing for so many things). But upon turning – or, in an old Kindle’s case… Pressing – the last page, I found myself at a state of mind in which I had to write this.
Looking For Alaska is John Green’s first published novel and is set in an Alabama boarding school. I actually read this book with zero knowledge of anything within it, and I believe this is how one obtains the optimum experience, so I will leave story details there.
What is interesting about this book is that Green has stated that his target audience has always been teenagers, and this isn’t your typical book for a teenager. But after reading through this, it really should be.
Looking For Alaska does not hold back on any page and does not consider teenagers to be too ‘soft’ for any of its content. Naturally, there is controversy surrounding its place in schools and libraries (to which I say, quoting Green himself, “Stop condescending to teenagers”), but as a seventeen year-old myself, I find it essential that I recommend this book to any adolescent. Anybody who is at the age of self-discovery should read this. It is mature and yet it understands its characters. It explores themes that could be considered unfriendly to teenagers, but it proves that books don’t have to be all squeaky clean for those at the most sensitive age.
I feel as though I haven’t properly expressed this book’s delight in this review, and I do not think that is a problem. Expressing this sort of unexpected praise is never something easy to do. There is certainly an age group which is too young for this book, but what is interesting is that there is also an age beyond which one becomes too old for this book. That is not a critique. It is a praise. As a writer – or aspiring one – myself, finding the perfect audience can be incredibly challenging, and Green did so with this book. Anybody between fifteen and their early twenties, given that they are okay with explicit content and profanity, would be able to appreciate this book in its fullest.
What it most beautiful in this book is the little things that make it feel like high school, the endless self-discovery across all pages, and the contrast between its very not-poetic setting and its very poetic context. The biggest reason I made the title of this review what it is is that any teenager would take away from this is a widened outlook on the idea of life, and a sense of virtue. Sure, any book can do that, but how many are written the way this one is? It’s a roller coaster of emotions for those who would most be able to relate to it, and as an experience of words, it is uniquely grand.
What was I doing all this time having not read it?
On a scale where M is the lowest, and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:
Looking For Alaska: MIHIR
I realise just now that it has been quite a while since I’ve handed that rating out to something. I’m glad I’ve been able to do it for this.