I won a copy of John Green's Looking for Alaska in a contest a while back and, having loved his Paper Towns, I was so excited to read it, that . . . well, that I promptly set it on my shelf to languish amongst all my other unread books for several months. As usual. But I left it on top!
Eventually I read the first 25 pages, wasn't blown away the same way I had been by Paper Towns, set it next to my bedside table, and read something else. A couple more months went by. I got back to it this weekend, having finished a book and being too sick and lazy to get out of bed to choose a new one. And you know what?
Once you get to the second half, it's wonderful.
Not that the first half is bad, if you're looking for a Friendless Geek Goes to Boarding School and Makes New Friends story. But, the dullness of protagonist Miles Halter--which is integral to the story--rubs off during the reading. Unlike Paper Towns's Quentin, whose world is irrevocably rocked by his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman right at the onset of the book, Miles kind of putzes around for a while. He makes friends who are mildly entertaining, he has a crush, he studies for classes. It's not boring, exactly, but it's not can't-stop-reading exciting, either.
And then the Big Thing happens, and all of a sudden it's a completely different book. The minor characters gain depth, Miles gets a backbone and loses it and finds it again, the emotional content grows from dull sparks to a full flame. And on it goes, a race to the finish, an ending that leaves the reader both satisfied and wanting more.
And so, Green did eventually live up to my expectations. It only took him 125 pages (and me, several months) to get there.