Book Nook: Looking for Alaska


courtesy TVLine

Given that the season of Thanksgiving is upon us, I decided to choose a book that is all about gratitude and that I am personally extremely grateful for. The book in question is Looking for Alaska by John Green.

I’ve heard someone describe Looking for Alaska as a Shakespearean tragedy, and I would fully agree. Although the book is considered Young Adult, its content is heavy, so heavy in fact that it is one of the most frequently banned books in recent years. The book includes depictions of drugs, alcohol, classism, depression, and death. However, it isn’t only about dark topics, it also contains family and love, plus prank wars!

An interesting aspect of Looking for Alaska is its different tropes. Some people consider the book to be problematic for its depiction of the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope, saying that John Green’s presentation of the titular character is inherently sexist and objectifying. However, that was the goal of the author. He wished to present the topic and the dangers surrounding these issues through the novel. Alaska was supposed to be an almost unreal character, untouchable and divine, only existing for the narrator, Miles. Although she did, at some points, exist for herself. She made her own choices and her own mistakes. As Miles describes, Alaska was a hurricane.

Looking for Alaska takes place at a boarding school in Alabama, known as Culver Creek. Miles, ironically nicknamed “Pudge” by his roommate for his thinness, is obsessed with last words. He collects dozens of biographies, not to read them, but rather to skip to the end and memorize the subject’s final sayings. He decides to go to Culver Creek in order to “seek the Great Perhaps”, as said by the French scholar Francois Rabelais moments before his death. What he doesn’t expect is to be caught up in a prank war by his roommate, Chip, also known as “The Colonel”. Due to the wealth separation within the school, the less advantaged students, The Colonel, Tikumi, and Alaska, have been at “war” with the wealthier students, or the “Weekday Warriors”, who constantly berate them for their class status. The Colonel, Tikumi, and Alaska take Miles into their group, giving him friendships that he had never had before. But when someone tells the principal about a pair of students breaking rules, and the Weekday Warriors suspect that the Colonel was the one who told on them – or, as described in the book, “ratted” – the prank battle becomes bigger than ever before. However, it isn’t until tragedy strikes that everyone realizes what they really should have been fighting for.

In Looking for Alaska, the male gaze is intentionally used. Miles, the protagonist, views women possessively. He immediately sees Alaska as his own, and doesn’t care about the girl, Lara, that he is dating. Instead, he pines after Alaska, doing everything in his power to bring him closer to her, even when she tells him not to ruin their friendship. Eventually, after a tragic event, Miles realizes that he only saw Alaska how he wanted to see her and not how she actually was.

This book taught me about true friendship and family, and how it is shown through words and actions. Being thankful for someone can be shown through many different ways, and those particular ways are what bring people together. One of my favorite ways of showing people that I am thankful for them is by giving them this book, because this book has brought me great joy. It has been the light at an end of a tunnel. It has been a silver lining in a dark cloud. It has been a smile on someone’s face. So please, enjoy! Thank you for coming back to Sophia’s Book Nook!