Miles is a normal, uninteresting teenager who devotes himself to remembering and researching famous last words. One day, desiring a change in scenery, he convinces his parents to allow him to attend a private school, Culver Creek Preparatory High School, which is located in Alabama in order to “seek a Great Perhaps”. While at Culver Creek, he quickly bonds with Chip, his roommate, who prefers to be addressed as”the Colonel”. The Colonel introduces Miles to the school: what it’s like, the foods, the classes, new friends, places to hang out. Two intriguing people stick out to Miles: Takumi, a music enthusiast, and Alaska Young, who is a vivacious enigma. Alaska quickly leaves an impression on Miles; they share a love of last words and biographies, and her energy impresses him.
As the novel progresses, Miles comes to discover the good and the bad surrounding Culver Creek; while he is annoyed by the upper class students (deemed the “Weekday Warriors”) who don’t seem to take school seriously and who leave on the weekends, Alaska leads the newly established group on adventures ending in elaborate pranks being carried out across campus, allowing for a fun revenge tactic. Miles quickly falls in love with Alaska’s beauty, her energy, and her random mood swings. As they bond, he comes to the revelation that Alaska’s mother died when Alaska was only eight, leaving her with an intense sense of guilt. And as Miles (knighted “Pudge”) grows closer with her, he begins to see just how unstable she is, and how badly she is haunted by actions in her past.
John Green has an incredible ability to take average teenagers and throw them into adventurous, unexpected situations. This was definitely evident in his first novel; while reading, I could picture the characters, what they were like, how they would react to certain situations. They seemed lifelike and were easy to relate to. While it seems nothing exciting would occur in a prep school in Alabama, Alaska’s dedication to mischief caught me and lead me to keep reading. Overall, I thought it was incredibly well written, had a plot line that zigzagged and kept me hooked, and had believable, interesting characters. I highly recommend it!
Since I can’t reveal any surprises, I can’t tell you the most memorable part of the book! However, other than the giant surprise ending, the most memorable part of the novel was Miles’ love for last words. Quotes have always fascinated me, whether they were last words, were simply inspirational, or were delivered at pivotal points in history. John Green’s incorporation of them as a motif throughout the novel stuck out immediately. It helped me to better understand him as a character and allowed Green to show the depth that Alaska and Miles each had.
Reviewed by Emily, Grade 12, Twin Hickory Library