Saturday, September 4, 2010

Review: Looking For Alaska

Miles was a nobody, with no friends and no life and nothing except a passion for famous last words.  And then, searching for a "Great Perhaps" (last words, Rabelais) he moves to boarding school in Birmingham.  His roomate, Chip, is a dirt-poor genius who lives for pranks.  Chip nicknames him Pudge and introduces him to Alaska.  Alaska is crazy, beautiful, sexy, funny, amazing, self-destructive, a wonderful disaster looking for a place to happen.  She teaches Miles/Pudge to drink, smoke, and prank; in just days, he is head over heels in love with her.

But underneath it all Alaska is truly, deeply unhappy.  She's a screwed-up person.  The book is divided into two parts, with each chapter labled the number of days "before" or "after" the tragedy that changes Miles forever.

Entertainment: ★★★★★

Wow.  Seriously, that's all I can say.  Wow.

Plot: ★★★★

Miles' journey is honest and amazing.  And although what comes "before" is funny and intense, it's what comes "after" that really makes the book.  It's a lot of soul-searching and touchy-feely stuff, which doesn't usually appeal to me, but in this case... it was amazing.

Characters: ★★★★★

Alaska is of course the enigmatic star of the show.  She ricochets wildly from funny, fun, and upbeat to angry, crazy, and depressed.  There's just a lot of her, and she's a really excellent character.  Chip/the Colonel was equally awesome; a trailer-park genius with a Napoleon complex, creative but totally real.  And then Miles, the good kid who'd never smoked or broken a rule; his self-discovery was really amazing to read.  And the side characters, too, were fully characterized and real.  I don't even know what to write about them, seriously, except that they were really, truly awesome.

Writing: ★★★★★

I'll just list some adjectives: light, dark, funny, honest, self-deprecating, open, real.  And those five stars up there just about sum it up for me.

End Result: five stars.  A really excellent book.  Read it.

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