At its surface, Looking for Alaska is about friendships, boarding school, teenage love triangles. But deeper down, at its heart, Looking for Alaska is an eerily spiritual novel that tackle's some of life's big questions: why are we here, how do we navigate this life, how do we deal with life after death, and how do you know when to forgive? Much of the novel centers around the characters' religious studies class and their assignments, and I found myself pondering these timeless questions right along with the characters.
The main character, Miles "Pudge" Halter, begins his junior year at Culver Creek High School - a boarding school - after having lived his whole previous life insignificantly, as an essentially friendless social outcast. Soon after arriving at "The Creek", Pudge realizes friendships and camaraderie like he has never known before. He finds this by way of his roommate, Chip - "The Colonel" - and a girl down the hall, Alaska Young. Alaska is the type of brilliant, complex, thoughtful girl that Miles has always dreamed of, and she loves books as much as Miles is obsessed with memorizing famous people's last words. In fact, in confirmation of her love of books, Miles says this:
"Her library filled her bookshelves then overflowed into waist-high stacks of books everywhere, piled haphazardly against the walls. If just one of them moved, I thought, the domino effect could engulf the three of use in an asphyxiating mass of literature," (15).
I don't know, but I imagine that, if left to my own devices, my house would very much resemble the chaos of Alaska's library.
Anyway, Alaska's mystery and dynamic being captivate Pudge instantly, leaving him utterly defenseless against her powers. Which leads me to a quote from the novel that I absolutely LOVED:
"And what is an 'instant' death anyway? How long is an instant? It is one second? Ten?...What is an instant? Nothing is instant. Instant rice takes five minutes, instant pudding an hour. I doubt that an instant of blinding pain feels particularly instantaneous," (143).
Their friendship soon leads to a horrific tragedy, which plunges Pudge into total consumption with two things: rationalizing her character, and determining what life is all about - something he calls the "Great Perhaps". Ultimately, Miles learns that "some mysteries aren't meant to be solved," (212), which I think is one of the hardest life lessons to learn.
All in all, I cannot rave about this book enough - it's that amazing!! The only downfall is that there's a lot of teen drinking, profanity, and sexual innuendos, which render it inappropriate for most of my middle school readers :(