Honest and lively YA book reviews
I unlike many, many others did not find Looking For Alaska an enlightening read. I do not think it incredible, or life changing or mind-blowing. But I am of the opinion that it is absolutely perfect.
Taken as individual pieces, snapshots read when you have time, it's a train wreck. It's vile. It's the story of a group of self absorbed teenage nobodies, rattling on about things which are beyond their grasp of understanding. But taken as a whole, as a sum of all it's parts, complete, it's beautiful. It's the story of all our lives. It's the story of how we must somehow make peace with all the suffering which is inevitable in the world throughout life, and learn to live, love, laugh in the face of it all.
Sounds pretentious, huh? Yeah, well it just wasn't. It was great.
I am in no way biased. Following The Fault in our Stars I am truly not one of John Green's greatest fans ..... But, everyone goes on about Looking For Alaska so I thought, despite my misgivings I would give it a go. And I was so happy to find writing that (mostly) flowed wonderfully smoothly, with an open honesty and an inviting tone. The Fault in our Stars, I felt, pushed me away as a reader, Looking for Alaska drew me in.
So the story goes that our little narrator and hero, Miles sets off to boarding school to find something more in life than the lonely existence he's living in his hometown somewhere in Florida. He's an introvert, he hasn't much confidence and he finds it difficult to reach out to people. He seeks to reinvent himself at Culver Creek, the same boarding school his dad and brothers attended before him. And reinvent himself he does. He meets a group of fiercely loyal, super smart and expert mischief-making friends which includes live-wire, mood swinging Alaska Young, who drag him from his shell and bring him to life. When the worst tragedy of all strikes, the friends are forced to re-evaluate their priorities and learn what value their lives all hold.
It sounds sappy, it sounds lame, but it's not.
There's a lot of big questions in life, questions which many of us never even dare to ask because we can't bare to face the answers. Looking For Alaska quietly introduces us to the possibility of contemplating these questions and finding a positive way out of the "labyrinth". It's a very sweet, gentle read. Yes, the tragedy in the middle of the story is pretty grim, but there's very little other conflict. It's a book to reflect on, don't expect to be blown away by rip-roaring adventure and blasting action scenes cos there ain't none.
Grief and death are enormously painful experiences to deal with. Death is the last great mystery. Humans have travelled to the moon, they've peering inside every cell of the body, they've explored and exposed every inch of the Earth's surface but one thing science cannot assure us is what lies behind the veil, beyond the death of our bodies. Oh sure, science can speculate that our brains shut down and we simply cease to be. But, in my opinion anyway, it is just that - speculation. How will we ever know for sure what lies ahead for each and every one of us until we experience that moment for ourselves. And that is not an experiment that can be reported back on, logged and calculated.
It's too overwhelming, too heart-breaking to imagine that we simply fade away to nothing after death. Miles, The Colonel and Takumi felt this way too and I just adored Miles' conclusion at the very end concerning the scientific law which states that energy cannot be created, nor destroyed only transformed. And by this logic, none of us truly dies. We just move on, become something else - wether that be a part of the Earth, or the rocks or the atmosphere - we're invincible in an atomic way. In the beginning, we were created by a Big Bang. We were created from the same materials that also created the sun, the moon and the stars (in a round about way ....) Essentially we're all still made up of those same sets of atoms and molecules that came together all those millions of years ago to form everything you see around you today, here on Earth and beyond - we're just a little reworked. This thought offers so much hope and comfort to those missing loved ones. No-one ever truly leaves, they change. They continue the cycle to become again how they began. Particles. They go into the growth of trees, the power we light our homes with, the air we breathe.
And their soul? Their real energy, their life force? Well who knows? We'll all see for ourselves ( hopefully not anytime soon!)
I feel that Looking For Alaska did not enlighten me, as I said in my first paragraph as I have taken time to meditate about what lies ahead for us all many times before, largely through fear ..... but I can fully understand why some arriving to consider this for the first time could be blown away by this story. It's powerful and oh, so touching and very human. There's a huge amount of emotion poured between the pages, and it's incredibly thought provoking, especially I imagine, if you are yet to experience grief or true suffering in your own life. We all will though, that's the nature of life and the heart of the story. It's inevitable. All we can control is how we deal with this suffering, and how we decide to go about navigating our way out of this labyrinth, beautifully illustrated by Miles and the gang.
This is such a bleak review! I apologise, but it's been a hard week and sometimes it's good to contemplate. There's a card in the Tarot deck which advises whoever pulls it to take the time for some quiet meditation, to become an introvert for a while and consider some spiritual and personal questions. I think everyone should pull this card every now and again. We should never underestimate the importance of finding inner peace, whatever that means to you as an individual.
Everyone can go ahead and take extra special care of themselves, you're all very precious, powerful and unique.