- Published: January 1st, 2005
- Publisher: Speak
- Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
- Pages in Paperback: 221
- Quote: “We need never by helpless, because we can never by irreparably broken.”
- Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Book Depository
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same.
Review of the Characters:
Pudge– This character is memorable right from the start with his fascination with last words. His reasoning when questioned about it? “A lot of times people die how they live.” And it is that kind of philosophical thought that makes John Green’s book stand out in young adult literature. When we first meet Pudge, he is in the search of the Great Perhaps, he wants to start living life wide instead of long and he finds this in his school, specifically, Alaska. He falls for her practically the first time they meet and it is this fascination that drives this novel forward. John Green did it, when I thought no one else could, he wrote a real teenager. Pudge reflected the adolescent accurately, he was a typical boy who sometimes didn’t think before he acted but he was capable of feeling beyond society’s expectations because while he was a teenager, he was also a person. Plain and simple John Green delivered on every account.
Alaska– Alaska embodied this essence that couldn’t put named. Pudge states it quite perfectly with, “So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” She was wild and bright, untouchable and transfixing. I have to be honest, I didn’t like her for the whole fist half of the novel purely for the fact because I couldn’t understand her intentions. She was something unfamiliar and I couldn’t connect to her therefore I misinterpret her. But I think John Green does this on purpose, he purposely withholds the core of her motivation until the second half. When everything changes. Suddenly her self destructive ways were clear and she was someone I could connect too. Alaska truly is the driving force of this novel, she’s with us even when she isn’t present, she’s on every page asking us “How do we get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” Alaska is a character you will never forget, you will see her in the mindless doodles, in the practical pranks and you will see her in the moments when you feel most helpless.
Review of the Story:
Even though it was John Green, I wasn’t expecting much. The boarding school idea has been done so many times I didn’t know how it would be original, but I was wrong. I will never doubt John Green again.
Throughout the novel we are posed with the question, “How do we get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” It’s posed to us even before we can fully understand the question but like Alaska, it’s because it’s a concept that’s meant to be digested. We must see the characters struggle with the question until much later in the novel when Pudge figures it out. “The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.” And throughout the story we see this idea grow and take form. John Green shows through his story and characters that the only way to move on in life is to forgive, forgive those who have wronged you and forgive yourself.
Review of the Writing:
John Green’s writing was one thing I was expecting to be great and he succeeded on all accounts. His writing contains an element that transcends age and gender. Any could pick up this book and enjoy its tale, because it’s timeless. It’s meaning is one that is relatable everywhere and to everyone.
His writing was fluid and compelling. “When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.” This is why I love John Green, because he knows young adult are smarter than society thinks, we can philosophize and ponder our future like any other human being.
This novel will be a classic. It’s being taught in schools and I’ll tell you why: BECAUSE IT PROMOTES INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT. We learn about forgiveness and consequences. We learn that there is nothing that humans can’t overcome, no matter how helpless we feel. If you haven’t read this novel yet, pick it up. Now. You won’t ever forget it’s story.
P.S.– My next read is Enders Game by Orson Scott Card