“How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!”
'Looking for Alaska' is the debut novel of the famous American author John Green, published by Dutton Juvenile in March 2005. The book belongs to young adult fiction. The story revolves around Miles, Alaska, and their high school mischiefs. Set in the backdrop of Culver Creek High School in Alabama, this coming of age novel reflects upon many atrocities of life. The story is narrated by Miles aka 'Pudge' who leaves his high school in Florida in search of his 'great perhaps'. Pudge is introduced to the 'cool' aspects of living in a boarding school by his roommate, Chip aka 'the Colonel'. He meets the infamous Alaska Young and Takumi through Chip and then the story leaps forward. The story then follows their pranks, relationships, and friendship in the school. The major event that creates the title of the book changes the lives of Miles forever. The second half of the book is dedicated to uncovering the mystery of how the event aka Alaska's tragic accident happened or what lead to it.
The book is divided into two parts, 'before' and 'after' the event. The interesting thing about the format of the book is that the chapter name is denoted by the numbers left or after the day of the event. The story is infused with themes of grief, youth, adventure, pain, forgiveness, suffering, and a quest to find an answer out of the labyrinth.
The Author of the book- Source : Google
When we are introduced to Miles, he appears as a normal teenager dreaming about his 'great perhaps' and changing his school to find one. Miles has a fascination for last words and appears to be a geek or a nerd. His whole life is turned upside down when he meets Alaska Young, the enigmatic girl of the school. What follows is him falling in love with Alaska and tragedy ahead of him which changes his perspective towards life forever.
At first, Alaska is presented to be the typical messed up cool handsome teenage girl. On the surface she is this wild, alcohol drinking, chaos creating cool girl but as we get to know her story, we fall in love with her too. She has a library in her room filled with books, cigarettes, and alcohol hidden somewhere in the same room. She is the master of the pranks and also the master of hiding her pain. She is not perfect but her personality echoes that it is perfect to be broken. She makes us realize that it is okay to be afraid and think for yourself. This eponymous character is what is at the core of the novel. Her path affects the lives of so many and the tragedy follows her everywhere.
He is the roommate of Miles and the best friend of Alaska. He comes from a poor background. He is responsible for giving nicknames to everybody else. He leads the pranks with Alaska and Takumi. He lives by honor and loyalty and loves his mother dearly. He is also devastated when his best friend, Alaska dies. He grieves by blaming her for leaving them and breaking the pact of loyalty but realizes and forgives her.
Coverpage of the book- Source : Google
"Damn it, how will I ever get out of this labyrinth!"- Simón Bolívar
This word 'Labyrinth' is frequently said by Alaska throughout the book. The word is at the core of the book. Alaska loved Bolivar's last words. In a way, Alaska is also a metaphor for the labyrinth, the embodiment of it. It stands for pain and suffering. Labyrinth unlike a maze is a straight winding never-ending path. Alaska knew her labyrinth is always going to be unhappy and full of suffering and the only way out of it was 'straight and fast'. This foresees and predicts the tragic events concerning Alaska's life. The question was whether the labyrinth was dead or living, whether it is the life that a person has to escape or death. In the more religious terms, the end of the labyrinth represented salvation and Miles believed in this concept of the labyrinth.
Pictorial representation of a labyrinth- Source : Google
Miles came to the Culver Creek High School to seek his 'great perhaps'. The great perhaps may represent a happy life or a goal. It depends on the individual perspective. Miles might not have found his great perhaps at the end of the book. He may have thought that Alaska was his greater perhaps and realized the great perhaps need not to be necessarily happy and for a person to keep. It could just be a moment as well. Miles had a fascination with the last words. The last words may seem to be a conclusion of a person's life but it may be a long unfulfilled wish or a regret. Miles seem to find the person's greater perhaps in their last words. It's like a climax to the whole movie or maybe a cliff-hanger.
The author of the book is so talked about but I never got a chance to read any of his works. 'Looking for Alaska' came as a surprise to me because it was not the most talked about book around and I never encountered it before. It sure had its fans but not quite the stir. For me, the book wasn't hyped but the author was. So, I had quite a lot of expectations and that is what a reader should not keep. I kept a different book's expectations for a whole different concept. But this book spoke volumes and reflected on topics you never thought about before. It is a breather from the cliché chaotic girl- nerd boy romance. Honestly, in the 'Before' part of the book, it lacked a connection to me. I thought it to be just another young adult fiction but I was so happy when it turned out to be more. Miles as a character had its bad points like the elements of misogyny but in the end, was a redeemable character. He was as flawed as anyone, not a typical masculine hero although he tried to be. The character of Alaska effortlessly teaches so many life lessons. She told me it was fine to be weak and vulnerable and badass at the same time. Her wish to die 'straight and fast' but the fighting will to live spoke volumes about the conflicts of life. I wish I could have told her that it's not her fault her mother died, it's not her burden anymore and she can afford to be vulnerable again. Nobody knows if her will to live or her wish to die took hold of her in the end. Nobody knows if she got out of the labyrinth or not but we surely know it's a better place or we like to believe it.
The symbols in the book were cleverly imbued and complemented the whole mood of the text. Alaska and Colonel's amusement and pranks were the sources of happiness of the book. I feel in the book, I could resonate with Colonel. He was this loyal boy, who wished to make most out of life and make her mom proud. He was constantly trying to save Alaska from herself. He was there for Pudge and Takumi every time. But I felt Colonel's character had so much potential and the book could have shown his transparent feelings because he deserved it. Nonetheless, the book is an emotional ride, you feel happiness, pain, hope, and relief. But in the end, it leaves you with this sense of emptiness and sends you on a quest of finding the answer out of our labyrinth. The book is critically acclaimed and I would recommend this.
Hulu adapted the novel into an eight-episode series. It premiered on October 18, 2019.
Poster of the series- Source : Google
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