Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, March 15, 2012

Plot Summary:
Miles Halter starts his first year at Culver Creek, Alabama, an elite boarding school, to pursue the "Great Perhaps" that he has been longing to fulfill. After meeting his roommate, Chip (aka. The Colonel), he meets a girl names Alaska Young. Although she is gorgeous, smart, and sassy, she bares a cross that can only be seen by those who are close to her. Along with Alaska, Miles (aka. Pudge) meets Takumi, the only Japanese person he has ever seen in Birmingham, Alabama. Since Miles is awkward, "gawky," and not use to having friends, this group of misfits creates a bond that no one could ever break. While trying to excel in his studies, his new friends are about to turn his boring and safe life completely upside down. The Colonel and Alaska are masters of pranks so when they are not reading classical literature, they are planning their revenge against the "Weekday Warriors" (the ultra rich students who can go home on the weekends). Unfortunately, Miles is initiated into Culver Creek by being abducted, duck taped, and thrown into the river. Despite his "brush with death," Pudge learns about an incident that fueled the fire between the misfits and the preps. Although Colonel and Alaska are brilliant, they tend to defy the system, which could lead them to disaster where Pudge slowly starts to realize that these amazing people are not who they seem. Unfortunately, a tragic accident shakes their worlds and kick starts a search for the "Great Perhaps" that Pudge has been looking for.

Critical Evaluation:
Honestly, I forgot how incredibly awesome this book is until I re-read it. Not only are these characters complex, their very talents and failures are what create this memorable tale of adolescence. First of all, it has, and never will be, easy to be a teenager. For Alaska, her life has been based upon an accident that has sent her fearing failure. Moreover, the pain she clings to not only cripples her, but it also provides her with a daring and infallible attitude. For Colonel, not having a father, and being poor, has pushed hiumself to not only excel in school, but forces him to do what is necessary to preserve his true identity by overcoming his poverty by keeping the rich in check. As for Takumi, of all characters, he is the antithesis of what others see; he is a sarcastic, rule-breaking, and a rapper who does what he wants and when he wants. As for the main character, Miles, he is the one character who changes the most. Known for building walls, he allows himself to take everything around him and let loose for once. As an adult, reading this, I sometimes lost sight of the fact that these teenagers are teenagers; based on their behaviors, and experiences, it seems like these teens seem older than they are. For example, there is no constant authority figure (other than "The Eagle"), they smoke, have sex, they cuss, have intense, often inappropriate, conversations, break the rules knowing they could get expelled, involved in compromising situations, and determined to succeed like any person my own age. However, the more that I read, the more I realized that despite their brains,whit, and experiences, they are still children who seek love, the need to fit in, and, ultimately, forgiveness. The ending of this story was hysterical, but, at the same time, redeeming and quite satisfying.

Information about the Author:
Again, check out his website, and become a Nerdfighter today!

Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Lit for Guys

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up

Books Similar to Looking For Alaska:

Awards & Recognition:
  • Michael L. Printz Winner (2006)
  • LA Times Book Prize Finalist (2005)
  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults (2005)
  • School Library Journal Best Book of The Year (2005)
  • BookList Book Editor's Choice (2005)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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