Looking for Alaska- Continuing the Coming of Age Tradition

With all the buzz surrounding John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars, I decided to examine some of his other published works of fiction.

I borrowed a friend’s copy of Green’s novel, Looking for Alaska and quickly became engrossed in the novel. From the start of the text one thing becomes clear; this book can be easily compared to some of our favorite novels.

First, allow me to state that this book’s intended audience is geared towards high school students, for which marketing this audience is not without controversy. Considering the reading public’s love of young adult fiction, the world of high school students is not an awful place to be for a writer. In fact, John Green’s characters make reliving your young adult years more enlightening than one would believe.

Looking for Alaska follows Miles “Pudge” a young man, who is obsessed with memorizing famous last words, in his search for a “Great Perhaps.” This search leads him to a mysterious girl named Alaska. The chronological set-up of the novel allows Green to fully develop his characters in each given situation.

There is no denying Green’s ability to have a character jump off the page. In fact, character development is John Green’s greatest quality as a writer. In the case of Looking for Alaska, even the secondary characters are dynamic, having dual motivation, while using their vast emotion to play a vital role in Mile’s life. Character development is an author’s bread and butter. A beloved character that spans generations is the Holy Grail to an author. John Green creates characters that have this potential.

By the end of the novel, these characters assist the reader in discovering that by “looking” for Alaska, the reader finds more of themselves than they realize.

This is the very reason the reading public gravitated to Green’s other work, The Fault in Our Stars. In both of his works, Green creates characters we can see, feel, touch and ultimately relate to. His characters jump off the page at the reader and in the case of The Fault in Our Stars, Green’s larger than life characters jump off the forever immortalizing big screen. Green’s characters allow the reader to laugh and cry with Gus and Hazel and the same can be said for Miles and Alaska.

As a reading public, we can trace our love for wonderful characters in Bildungsroman or coming of age stories, further back than just recent New York Times Best-Sellers. A similar story, as Looking for Alaska, lies in J.D. Salinger’s, The Catcher in the Rye. A more recent comparison can be Stephen Chbosky’s 1999s novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then both J.D. Salinger and Stephen Chbosky should be pleased with Green’s continuation of the coming of age novel. The comparison between these four novels does not end here. The Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looking for Alaska and even The Fault in Our Stars share two universal story-telling must haves: characters coming of age and intrinsic, unresolved mystery/emotion.

With Green’s popularity on the rise, only time will tell if Looking for Alaska and his character Miles will be forever embraced by teenage readers just as The Catcher in the Rye and the character Holden Caulfield. However, there are a few simple reasons these types of novels keep reappearing. Each one of these reasons is strongly represented in Looking for Alaska. Reason One: You just might find the truth about the harsh realities of life.

Reason Two: Growing up is hard enough; it helps to have someone/something to relate to just ask Holden Caulfield, Charlie and now Miles Halter. Reason Three: We all make mistakes in life.

These mistakes do not define us; it is how we handle these mistakes that shape our lives.