I was first introduced to John Green via his YouTube channel, the Vlogbrothers, that he shares with his brother Hank. This was in late 2011, shortly before his book The Fault in Our Stars was published. Although initially unaware that John Green was an author, I really enjoyed his Youtube videos and found myself going through the back catalogue of videos John and Hank had made and learned that not only was John about to publish TFIOS, but that it was the book he had always wanted to write but had not felt able to do it justice until he had written a number of books prior to that.
Accordingly, I went and purchased TFIOS as soon as I could and read it cover to cover in practically one sitting. I immensely enjoyed the book, as did millions of others which resulted in the various award winning film being made only a few years after.
With my (likely flawed) understanding that TFIOS was the book John had always wanted to write but had not previously been able to do justice, I was somewhat sceptical about reading the books he had written previously, despite many people telling me I should. Abi, however, had bought a bunch of them and after reading Looking for Alaska, suggested I read it next. So I did. And I was not disappointed.
The style of the writing was very similar to TFIOS in that it felt very immersive, the language used felt very real and made it easier to imagine you were there with the man character as they go about their story. The story is very much of a ‘young-adult’ nature, dealing with the many unique problems every teenager goes through before realising their problems aren’t unique. But, of course, this does not detract from them being very important things that the characters have to work through and come out the other side.
The book does differ to others in some quite obvious ways. The first you will notice is that the chapters are titled in the form of a countdown. To start with, you are not sure to what. As the story goes on, you inevitably start to form your own conclusions as to what moment is coming ever closer. Maybe you will be spot on. Maybe you’ll be close. I was not expecting what happened myself.
I would love to try and give some fully in-depth critique of how this book subtly portrays particular issues of the world, but I cannot. I am not a great book critic, but I think Looking For Alaska, much like TFIOS, deals with the life issues in a particularly overt way. Pretty head on by all accounts. I never went to a boarding school, but I remember going on school trips and the excitement of sneaking in contraband (although ours was sweets and fizzy drinks as opposed to cigarettes and alcohol) and avoiding getting caught being in the girls rooms by teachers.
The characters all felt very personable, and whilst it was a bit predictable that the main character would find himself sharing a room with someone who he always wanted to be, it is true that opposites often do attract and they both impact each other’s lives in a strong way.
If you are yourself a young adult or, like me, are someone that continues to enjoys the same sorts of books as when they were at high school then I suggest you give this a read. The best compliment I can give it is that I did not put it down, even reading it through Match of the Day which I had purposefully woken up to watch. At the very least, it’s 221 pages of very well paced, easy to read literature that should entertain you for a few hours.