Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thoughts on Looking for Alaska

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.


  1. I won this book during BBAW - now I can't wait to read it.

  2. The same thing happened when I read this book. It took me a while to get into it, but when I did it was worth it!

  3. Hello! I just discovered your blog and I loved your impressions of LFA. You had pretty much the same reaction to this book as I did as well as Paper Towns.

  4. Thanks, Beth S. I'm looking forward to reading An Abundance of Katherines to see what my impression of that one is.

    Kailana, I had a feeling I wasn't the only one....although I read one review where someone felt exactly the opposite; go figure.

    BermudaOnion, Nice win! I think you'll enjoy this one.

  5. Ali, I abandoned An Abundance of Katherines. Just did not like the plot or the characters in the slightest. I'll be interested to get your take on it.

  6. I think you many have more patience than me. To have to read 125 pages before getting to the "good" part may be asking too much for my aging brain

  7. I am so excited to read Paper Towns!

  8. Ha! Love the review. And the use of the phrase 'putzes around' Of John Green's books, only Looking For Alaska has been published in the UK. Paper Towns is out this year (I almost wrote 'next year'!) and I can't wait. I also found LFA to be a bit of a slow start, but by the end I was hooked!