days weeks ago I teased you with this…
I had honest intentions of reviewing of John Green’s Looking for Alaska a few days later. I expected to chew through it like I did in high school. Five years after my first reading, I just couldn’t.
It required considerably more reflection. Before, the characters’ battle was my battle; we were all 17 and as untouchable as we were fragile. Everything they felt, I felt. I was infinite as often as I was inconsequential.
The book divides into two parts: “Before” and “After”. Don’t ask about the dividing line, I’m not telling. It wouldn’t be fair and in the long run, I know you’d hold it against me. So until you find yourself book in hand, just know that in that moment everything changes. 17 and unbreakable suddenly feels very broken, for yourself as much as the characters.
Miles’ goodbye party before heading off to boarding school opens the book. Going was his idea. Begged for an explanation, Francois Rabelais’ last words roll off his tongue, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps”.
That Great Perhaps haunts the rest of the story. Will we find it? Is it there? Slowly, you realize you started asking yourself these questions long, long ago.
He goes, he meets his roommate, he gets situated, classes begin, and then there she is. Alaska. She’s shockingly complex; tortured in ways possible only for 17-year-old girls. And yet her melodrama doesn’t wear on you. That’s because it’s partnered with her unabashed willingness to believe she’ll find a way out.
Miles puts words to my heart, as much now as he did five years ago, when he says about her, “If people were rain, I was a drizzle and she was a hurricane”. Everyone is swept up in her; resistance is pointless.
Then it happens. Everyone’s world stops, even yours for a moment. “After” begins.
There’s always a dividing line. For me, “Before” is really “Before Alaska”, “After” is “The Aftermath of Alaska”. My every worry, pain, and struggle was torn open. And just when it seemed too much to bear, so was every sweet moment of pure, unadulterated pleasure.
It’s all there; every burden and blessing of being 17. Five years ago, it was an experience in solidarity. Me, Miles, and Alaska, we were all infinite, all unbreakable. Today, it’s more of an escape, a reminder of what it was to burn with that certainty, even if only for a couple hundred pages.
“Those awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be. 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 parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.” -, John Green, Looking for Alaska
Has anyone else read this? What did you think? If not, buy here!