⭑⭑⭑⭑ (4/5 see book reviews)

I’m a sucker for John Green.

I adore his podcast—The Anthropocene Reviewed—a collection of essays staged as five-star-based reviews of the various outputs of humanity. Like all of his writing, the podcast intimates so much of his experience—it’s both raw and refreshing.

Also I can’t read or watch The Fault in Our Stars without choking up—I’m only human after all.

That said, I’d never heard of Looking for Alaska, John Green’s debut novel, until I was browsing Audible looking for more things narrated by Wil Wheaton—another human I find delightful.

This reads like a debut novel, like John Green hadn’t quite found his niche. But it features all the standard John Green themes:

  • Quirky high school students with a vague drama-kid vibe
  • A stunning lack of real authority figures
  • Manic pixie dream person or persons

It’s a little formulaic, but comforting—like a Disney movie or mashed potatoes.


“Pudge” narrates our tale. Miles Halter, AKA “Pudge,” is a lanky (“it’s called irony, pudge”) newcomer to Culver Creek, a boarding/prep school in Alabama (which is a thing, I guess). Miles is obsessed with the last words of famous people. The story focuses heavily on two people’s last words in particular:

  • The poet Francois Rabelais’s last words: “I go now to seek a great perhaps,” which is the explanation Miles gives for going to boarding school in the first place, and
  • Simón Bolívar’s last words according to Gabriel García Márquez’s The General and His Labyrinth: “Damn it, how will I ever get out of this labyrinth?”

The story centers around Miles’s roommate, Chip Martin AKA “The Colonel,” and the eponymous Alaska Young—the manic pixie dream girl with whom Miles is infatuated throughout the story.

There are adolescent pranks, lots teen smoking, some drinking, and awkward teenage attempts at sexual intimacy.


It’s revealed that Alaska’s mom died when she was very young and she didn’t call 911 and therefore blames herself for her death. Alaska dies while drinking and driving on the anniversary of her mom’s death and no one is quite sure if it’s suicide.

It’s all heartbreaking in the way everything John Green writes is heartbreaking. I’d be tempted to call it cheap, but it’s so brutally honest about the experience of what it’s like to be young that it isn’t.


  • Title: Looking for Alaska
  • Author: John Green
  • Pages: 227
  • Format: ebook
  • Publisher: Dutton books
  • ISBN: 0525475060
  • Genre: Young Adult