Image by Penguinrandonhouse

IMG_0956fter reading John Green’s novel A Fault in our Stars (which has now been turned into a film) I thought I would read some of his earlier works. My friend recommended Looking for Alaska and I completed the book in one sitting, unable to pry myself from the pages. Like its predecessor, Looking for Alaska deals with mature themes that some critics would argue are not suitable for a Young Adult book but there is no denying the emotional impact John Green delivers. If I was asked to describe the novel in one word it would be haunting; the story of Pudge and his crush on Alaska will linger in your memory for years.

The story is told from Pudge’s point of view as he begins life at Culver Creek Preparatory High School. He makes friends with Chip “The Colonel” Martin and Alaska Young who with their friends are in a feud with the Weekday Warriors, students who attend the High School only on weekdays. This feud results in a series of pranks on each other that Pudge falls victim to. Throughout the book he battles with his feelings towards Alaska knowing that they are both in relationships and he engages in several rites of passages that face our youth.

Although many of the characters drink, smoke and have sex during the course of the novel they also address important themes and issues. Pudge is obsessed with people’s last words, The Colonel prides loyalty and honour for family and friends above all else. Alaska deals with the troubles of being an adolescent in a long distance relationship. Pudge is the only one of his friends who is not from a broken home and as such, sometimes feels isolated and guilty over this. His character is reminiscent of Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye.

It is not surprising given the sexual content of the book that it caused controversy. There were calls for it to be removed from the curriculum in America afters teachers and parents complained. The original cover showed cigarette smoke which could be seen as promoting smoking. The author has argued both of these cases stating that he made the book as realistic as possible and a reflection of our society. If you are offended by such issues perhaps this book is not for you.

Looking for Alaska is split into two sections, Before and After which sandwich a major event. I do not wish to ruin the book for future readers so I will not reveal this twist or many more details of the plot. I will say, however, that Looking for Alaska deals with issues which occur in life and not just at school. If you want a spell-binding book filled with love and loss please pick up a copy and enjoy.