Green, John. Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton Books, 2005. 221 pages.
When Miles Halter leaves his comfortable home in Florida to attend Culver Creek boarding school, he is searching for his own “Great Perhaps.” The skinny teen is immediately nicknamed “Pudge” by his roommate “the Colonel.” Through the Colonel, Pudge meets Alaska, an attractive girl who immediately steals Pudge’s heart despite the fact that she has a boyfriend she intends on keeping. Pudge and his newfound friends spend most of their time hiding out in the Smoking Hole where they sneak gulps of cheap booze and drags from cigarettes. The group is also involved in a prank war with the Weekday Warriors, the more affluent students who spend their weekends at home. When Alaska leaves her room in a fit of hysteria late one night, Pudge and the Colonel do not stop her, and on her way to where ever she was going, she is killed in a car accident, leaving all of her friends to feel guilty in her wake.
Despite her moodiness, Alaska is an extremely likeable character; when she is not spouting off caustic rhetoric to her friends, she is a deeply loyal and was the glue that held everyone together. Pudge’s character often served as comic relief, as he was very naïve at the beginning of the novel, but by the end, he had become a fully-realized character. Because Green left the ending of the novel ambiguous, teens are able to make their own conclusions about Alaska’s death based on the information unearthed by her friends; while it’s frustrating not to have a concrete ending, interpretation is also important.
Looking for Alaska’s cover is rather plain: it merely features a candle that has recently been extinguished. Even though the cover is symbolic (I assume it represents Alaska’s snuffed out life), many teens will likely pass it by without realizing the significance.