genre: young adult
Miles's choice to leave his hometown in Florida and enroll at a coed boarding school in Alabama was guided by the thought that there had to be MORE, some kind of grand adventure out there in life that he was somehow missing. Through his new roommate, he meets Alaska -one of those girls that get under your skin and won't ever leave. Alaska is full of everything Miles isn't - exuberance and experience and a recklessness that can leave chaos in its wake. And of course, she's got a boyfriend and so Miles has to settle for friendly sidekick, which is enough until one night it's not. It's not enough at all. And Miles and his friends have to deal with what's left over.
I think I can appreciate what John Green is trying to say in this book (and I really like him as an author and as a person, I think he's hilarious and I like to listen to him talk). At its heart I feel like there is a search for how to deal with things in our life that can drown us - how do we forgive ourselves for our mistakes and how do we keep living a real life when our mistakes affect people we care about? How do we NOT drown in our own suffering? And Green does a lovely job of writing some pretty deep ideas down, and I appreciate his wit and the the quirkiness he hands to his characters (Miles memorizes the last words of people who have died - that's awesomely quirky). But overall, the story just didn't click with me the same way that The Fault in Our Stars or Paper Towns did. I didn't particularly like Alaska, she felt like a moody tease. All the time. I didn't get why Miles liked her so it was hard for me to ever connect with him in the way I wanted to.
I need to also say that I read a lot of young adult books and I feel like I am pretty liberal with the content I can deal with in a book for teens. But describing a porn movie and an oral sex act seems a bit extreme, even to me. I can't UNmake it bother me, so I need to put it out there. I just didn't feel like it was necessary to the plot or Miles' character development. It felt gratuitous when I read it. I did, however, afterwards, watch this video in which John Green explains the point of that scene and I do feel like I understand now why he included it. I would still prefer my own child to NOT read that but I get what he was trying to say - that physical intimacy is meaningless without emotional intimacy.
This was my least favorite of his so far but I do appreciate that he dealt with some pretty intense topics that teens could relate to.