12 March, 2012

Looking For Alaska by John Green

Read it lying down

"If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane."

Many people must have reached a similar conclusion but I have to say that John Green's Alaska aims to be the Catcher in the Rye of this generation, and it comes pretty close. Miles 'Pudge' Halter and his band of misfits: the Colonel, a rotund short guy who knows the names of every country's capital (it is his coping mechanism), Alaska, the impetuous pretty girl who says she 'smokes to die', Takumi, the Japanese kid who is supposedly the best rapper in all of Alabama, and Lara the Hungarian, Romanian blue-eyed beauty. They're high school teenagers in boarding school with an abnormally high proclivity for pranks. And then something happens that changes the way they will witness their world, shake it to the very marrow and leave everything slightly hollow. 

John Green keeps the language simple but manages to come up with wonderful phrases, you know, the kinds you underline?  

"... the glittering ambiguity of a girl's smile, which seems to promise an answer to the question but never gives it."

Underneath a story of a group of nicotine starved teenagers, and how they grapple with the first big tragedy of their lives, John Green weaves in a parallel narration on religion. Through the voice of the very old and crumbling Religious Studies teacher Dr. Hyde, the story attempts to understand the questions raised when the mind is faced with unfathomable suffering. I wish he'd have delved deeper, but then that would have been another book. 

My only grouse with the book is the lack of empathy the character of Alaska aroused in me. She seemed too shallow for my taste which sat uncomfortably with her very voluble feminist streak. The layers that Green tried to create for her, didn't seem to go very deep. But while she seemed superficial and at times forced, I warmed up to the the other characters especially my personal favourite; the Colonel.

If for nothing else, I recommend the book for introducing me to the ideas of the Great Perhaps and Simon Bolivar's labyrinth.

Cross-posted here.

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