Sunday, November 10, 2013

Growing Up is Hard to Do

Looking for Alaska
by John Green
Published by Speak
3 Out of 5 Stars

Divided into two parts (before and after), I was all set to give this book a 4 until the last half of the book. The book is structured around a tragic event that changes the lives of a close knit group of friends. 

The first half of the book focuses on the main character, Pudge, a high school nobody with a penchant for collecting the last words of the dead and famous. Pudge, seeking a "Great Perhaps" that will change his life and provide him with direction, opts to attend Culver Creek, a private boarding school in Alabama. There he meets the Alaska of the book, a mercurial and mysterious girl with whom he falls in love. In addition, he becomes part of a motley group of misfits and finally feels as though he belongs. The novel's strength comes from this part of the book. There are those who will criticize these teens as being too jaded and world weary, but that's really the point. These are essentially good kids with keen intellects that have developed much sooner than their emotional maturity; they still see themselves as invincible. They smoke, they cuss, they drink, they experiment with sex. What they're really doing is trying to create an individualistic identity by trying on adult habits and modes of behavior, not realizing that their rebellious behavior has made them into stereotypes. Despite their flaws, they're likable--funny, sharp witted, and loyal to one another. 

My problem with the book is the second half, and I won't give away any spoilers. However, I was disappointed with the Scooby Doo ease with which the answer to the final mystery fell into place (my inner voice was groaning, "Rut ro, Raggy," as I realized how dissatisfying the ending was going to be). Also, adults just become complete idiots by the end of the book, shaking their heads with "You crazy kids"-like admiration at some of their more ridiculous exploits. However, it's a worthwhile read that is smartly written and would probably appeal more to teenagers. 

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