Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

4.5 1792
by John Green
     
 

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Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (François Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything but boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his… See more details below

Overview

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (François Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything but boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. After. And nothing is ever the same.

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults Nominee

An ALA Quick Pick Nominee

A Book SenseChildren’s Pick

A Kentucky Bluegrass Nominee

A Midwest Book Award Nominee

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Teenager Miles chronicles his first year at boarding school. According to PW, "The novel's chief appeal lies in Miles's well-articulated lust (for Alaska, the title girl) and his initial excitement about being on his own for the first time." Ages 14-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This is an amazing first novel by a writer who is young enough to vividly remember his poignant years of high school and skillful enough to turn his memories into story. His sixteen-year-old hero is Miles Halter (or Pudge as he is latter dubbed by friends). Miles is a friendless geek who is determined to reinvent himself when he leaves home for an Alabama boarding school. Green quickly establishes the reality of his unique character and immediately hooks teen audiences by describing his desire to fit in, his passion for collecting the last words of the famous, and his desire for sex and fun. The other characters are equally appealing, and young adult readers will understand why it takes no time at all for Miles to become a smoking, drinking prankster who cavorts around with his zany roommate, "the Colonel" and the wild, beautiful, eccentric, sexually-liberated Alaska Young. Believable, often-humorous dialogue and strong feelings fill the story of a young boy who is far greater than a collection of adolescent impulses. Miles is driven to understand what Rabelais calls "Great Perhaps" as well as what motivates the unfathomable Alaska. His urges for sex are balanced by his need to grasp life's mystery, especially when tragedy interrupts what looked like a romp of a first year away from home. The story is rough, realistic and compelling. Unlike the other award-winning books, this title has characterizations that connect, conversations that ring true, references to inspire further reading, and theological and philosophical truths that speak to young adults and leave them with questions that haunt them. 2005, Penguin, Ages 13 up.
—Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up
From the very first page, tension fills John Green's Michael L. Printz Award-winning novel (Dutton, 2005). Miles Halter, 16, is afraid that nobody will show up at his party because he doesn't have many friends. He loves to read biographies and discover the last words attributed to famous people. He's particularly intrigued with the dying words of poet Francois Rabelais: "I go to seek a great perhaps." Miles is leaving his loving Florida home for the "great perhaps" of the same Alabama boarding school attended by his father. Ominous chapter headings (40 days before, 10 days after) reveal that something tragic may happen. At school, Miles is accepted by a brainy group of pranksters led by his roommate and Alaska Young, a smart and sexy feminist. The teen becomes captivated by his new friends who spend as much energy on sex, smoking, drinking, and cutting-up as they do on reading, learning, and searching for life's meaning. As the school year progresses, Miles's crush on Alaska intensifies, even after it becomes evident that her troubled past sometimes causes her to be self-destructive. This novel is about real kids dealing with the pressures of growing up and feeling indestructible. Listeners will be riveted as the friends band together to deal with the catastrophic events that plague their junior year, and rejoice at their triumphs. Jeff Woodman clearly delineates the voices for each character in an age-appropriate, smart-alecky manner, injecting great emotion while managing not to be overly sentimental. This story belongs in all collections for older young adults, especially those who like Chris Crutcher, David Klass, and Terry Trueman.
—JoAnn CarhartCopyright 2006 ReedBusiness Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Alaska of the title is a maddening, fascinating, vivid girl seen through the eyes of Pudge (Miles only to his parents), who meets Alaska at boarding school in Alabama. Pudge is a skinny ("irony" says his roommate, the Colonel, of the nickname) thoughtful kid who collects and memorizes famous people's last words. The Colonel, Takumi, Alaska and a Romanian girl named Lara are an utterly real gaggle of young persons, full of false starts, school pranks, moments of genuine exhilaration in learning and rather too many cigarettes and cheap bottles of wine. Their engine and center is Alaska, given to moodiness and crying jags but also full of spirit and energy, owner of a roomful of books she says she's going to spend her life reading. Her center is a woeful family tragedy, and when Alaska herself is lost, her friends find their own ways out of the labyrinth, in part by pulling a last, hilarious school prank in her name. What sings and soars in this gorgeously told tale is Green's mastery of language and the sweet, rough edges of Pudge's voice. Girls will cry and boys will find love, lust, loss and longing in Alaska's vanilla-and-cigarettes scent. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults Top 10
An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers
A 2005 Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Kirkus Best Book of 2005
A 2005 SLJ Best Book of the Year
A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

"What sets this novel apart is the brilliant, insightful, suffering but enduring voice of Miles Halter." —Chicago Tribune

"Funny, sad, inspiring, and always compelling." —Bookpage

"Stunning conclusion . . . one worthy of a book this good." —Philadelphia Inquirer

"The spirit of Holden Caulfield lives on." —Kliatt

"What sings and soars in this gorgeously told tale is Green’s mastery of language and the sweet, rough edges of Pudge’s voice. Girls will cry and boys will find love, lust, loss and longing in Alaska’s vanilla-and-cigarettes scent." Kirkus, starred review

"Miles’s narration is alive with sweet, self-deprecating humor, and his obvious struggle to tell the story truthfully adds to his believability. Like Phineas in John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, Green draws Alaska so lovingly, in self-loathing darkness as well as energetic light, that readers mourn her loss along with her friends." —SLJ, starred review

"...Miles is a witty narrator who manages to be credible as the overlooked kid, but he's also an articulate spokesperson for the legions of teen searching for life meaning (his taste for famous last words is a believable and entertaining quirk), and the Colonel's smarts, clannish loyalties, and relentlessly methodological approach to problems make him a true original....There's a certain recursive fitness here, since this is exactly the kind of book that makes kids like Miles certain that boarding school will bring them their destiny, but perceptive readers may also realize that their own lives await the discovery of meaning even as they vicariously experience Miles' quest." —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review

"Readers will only hope that this is not the last word from this promising new author." —Publishers Weekly

“John Green has written a powerful novel—one that plunges headlong into the labyrinth of life, love, and the mysteries of being human. This is a book that will touch your life, so don’t read it sitting down. Stand up, and take a step into the Great Perhaps.”
—K.L. Going, author of Fat Kid Rules the World, a Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101434208
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
08/14/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
2,122
Lexile:
930L (what's this?)
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

"So do you really memorize last words?"

She ran up beside me and grabbed my shoulder and pushed me back onto the porch swing.

"Yeah," I said. And then hesitantly, I added, "You want to quiz me?"

"JFK," she said.

"That's obvious," I answered.

"Oh, is it now?" she asked.

"No. Those were his last words. Someone said, 'Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you,' and then he said, 'That's obvious,' and then he got shot."

She laughed. "God, that's awful. I shouldn't laugh. But I will," and then she laughed again. "Okay, Mr. Famous Last Words Boy. I have one for you." She reached into her overstuffed backpack and pulled out a book. "Gabriel García Márquez. The General in His Labyrinth. Absolutely one of my favorites. It's about Simón Bolívar." I didn't know who Simón Bolívar was, but she didn't give me time to ask. "It's a historical novel, so I don't know if this is true, but in the book, do you know what his last words are? No, you don't. But I am about to tell you, Señor Parting Remarks."

And then she lit a cigarette and sucked on it so hard for so long that I thought the entire thing might burn off in one drag. She exhaled and read to me:

" 'He' -- that's Simón Bolívar -- 'was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line. The rest was darkness. "Damn it," he sighed. "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!" ' " I knew great last words when I heard them, and I made a mental note to get ahold of a biography of this Simón Bolívar fellow. Beautiful last words, but I didn't quite understand. "So what's the labyrinth?" I asked her.

And now is as good a time as any to say that she was beautiful. In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and sunshine and vanilla, and on that thin-mooned night I could see little more than her silhouette except for when she smoked, when the burning cherry of the cigarette washed her face in pale red light. But even in the dark, I could see her eyes -- fierce emeralds. She had the kind of eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor. And not just beautiful, but hot, too, with her breasts straining against her tight tank top, her curved legs swinging back and forth beneath the swing, flip-flops dangling from her electric-blue-painted toes. It was right then, between when I asked about the labyrinth and when she answered me, that I realized the importance of curves, of the thousand places where girls' bodies ease from one place to another, from arc of the foot to ankle to calf, from calf to hip to waist to breast to neck to ski-slope nose to forehead to shoulder to the concave arch of the back to the butt to the etc. I'd noticed curves before, of course, but I had never quite apprehended their significance.

Her mouth close enough to me that I could feel her breath warmer than the air, she said, "That's the mystery, isn't it? Is the labyrinth living or dying? Which is he trying to escape -- the world or the end of it?" I waited for her to keep talking, but after a while it became obvious she wanted an answer.

"Uh, I don't know," I said finally. "Have you really read all those books in your room?"

She laughed. "Oh God no. I've maybe read a third of 'em. But I'm going to read them all. I call it my Life's Library. Every summer since I was little, I've gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read. But there is so much to do: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on. I'll have more time for reading when I'm old and boring."

She told me that I reminded her of the Colonel when he came to Culver Creek. They were freshmen together, she said, both scholarship kids with, as she put it, "a shared interest in booze and mischief." The phrase booze and mischief left me worrying I'd stumbled into what my mother referred to as "the wrong crowd," but for the wrong crowd, they both seemed awfully smart. As she lit a new cigarette off the butt of her previous one, she told me that the Colonel was smart but hadn't done much living when he got to the Creek.

"I got rid of that problem quickly." She smiled. "By November, I'd gotten him his first girlfriend, a perfectly nice non-Weekday Warrior named Janice. He dumped her after a month because she was too rich for his poverty-soaked blood, but whatever. We pulled our first prank that year -- we filled Classroom Four with a thin layer of marbles. We've progressed some since then, of course." She laughed. So Chip became the Colonel -- the military-style planner of their pranks, and Alaska was ever Alaska, the larger-than-life creative force behind them.

"You're smart like him," she said. "Quieter, though. And cuter, but I didn't even just say that, because I love my boyfriend."

"Yeah, you're not bad either," I said, overwhelmed by her compliment. "But I didn't just say that, because I love my girlfriend. Oh, wait. Right. I don't have one."

She laughed. "Yeah, don't worry, Pudge. If there's one thing I can get you, it's a girlfriend. Let's make a deal: You figure out what the labyrinth is and how to get out of it, and I'll get you laid."

"Deal." We shook on it.

Later, I walked toward the dorm circle beside Alaska. The cicadas hummed their one-note song, just as they had at home in Florida. She turned to me as we made our way through the darkness and said, "When you're walking at night, do you ever get creeped out and even though it's silly and embarrassing you just want to run home?"

It seemed too secret and personal to admit to a virtual stranger, but I told her, "Yeah, totally."

For a moment, she was quiet. Then she grabbed my hand, whispered, "Run run run run run," and took off, pulling me behind her.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults Top 10
An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers
A 2005 Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Kirkus Best Book of 2005
A 2005 SLJ Best Book of the Year
A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

"What sets this novel apart is the brilliant, insightful, suffering but enduring voice of Miles Halter." —Chicago Tribune

"Funny, sad, inspiring, and always compelling." —Bookpage

"Stunning conclusion . . . one worthy of a book this good." —Philadelphia Inquirer

"The spirit of Holden Caulfield lives on." —Kliatt

"What sings and soars in this gorgeously told tale is Green’s mastery of language and the sweet, rough edges of Pudge’s voice. Girls will cry and boys will find love, lust, loss and longing in Alaska’s vanilla-and-cigarettes scent." Kirkus, starred review

"Miles’s narration is alive with sweet, self-deprecating humor, and his obvious struggle to tell the story truthfully adds to his believability. Like Phineas in John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, Green draws Alaska so lovingly, in self-loathing darkness as well as energetic light, that readers mourn her loss along with her friends." —SLJ, starred review

"...Miles is a witty narrator who manages to be credible as the overlooked kid, but he's also an articulate spokesperson for the legions of teen searching for life meaning (his taste for famous last words is a believable and entertaining quirk), and the Colonel's smarts, clannish loyalties, and relentlessly methodological approach to problems make him a true original....There's a certain recursive fitness here, since this is exactly the kind of book that makes kids like Miles certain that boarding school will bring them their destiny, but perceptive readers may also realize that their own lives await the discovery of meaning even as they vicariously experience Miles' quest." —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review

"Readers will only hope that this is not the last word from this promising new author." —Publishers Weekly

“John Green has written a powerful novel—one that plunges headlong into the labyrinth of life, love, and the mysteries of being human. This is a book that will touch your life, so don’t read it sitting down. Stand up, and take a step into the Great Perhaps.”
—K.L. Going, author of Fat Kid Rules the World, a Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book

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