Looking for Alaska is John Green's debut novel, and it was published by Penguin in 2005. In 2006 Green received the "Michael L. Printz Award" which was followed by other awards and nominations. In 2008, for example, it was nominated for the German Youth Literature Award. But although the novel received much praise, sales were slow at first. It wasn't until 2012 that the book finally made the bestseller list.
Reserved and fond of philosophizing, Miles transfers to Culver Creek boarding school to find his "Great Perhaps." There he makes friends with the self-confident Chip, known to everyone as the Colonel. Chip comes from a poor background and receives a scholarship to attend the boarding school.
Through him Miles gets to know Alaska. She is a very impulsive, but also intelligent girl, by whom Miles is immediately fascinated and with whom he eventually falls in love. However, her moody and changeable nature also overwhelms him. He can only explain her behavior better when he learns that Alaska's mother died when Alaska was eight years old, and that she blames herself for her death.
The group of three is joined by Takumi and Lara, with whom they drink alcohol, smoke, and plan pranks together. The friends' world is shaken, however, when Alaska is killed in a car accident.
Looking for Alaska is a valuable young adult book because it addresses important issues and makes one think. The story deals with the death of a loved one and the pain of loss. The grieving process is described and various possible ways of dealing with death are presented.
In this context, the question of guilt and how to deal with guilt is also addressed. Furthermore, the text poses questions about the meaning of life, suffering in life, the possibility of suicide, and deals with the meaning of religions and poses the question of life after death. At the end, the novel sends the message that hope and forgiveness are the most important aspects to mastering life.
The theme of first love is also dealt with very impressively. Miles falls under the spell of Alaska and is dominated by the love for her, despite her negative qualities. It is beautifully described that he not only finds her appearance attractive, but is also fascinated by her character and her thoughts.
Other major themes are friendship and loyalty. Miles, the outsider, comes to Culver Creek with the desire to find comrades. While he doesn't get along with the cool students here either, he does find friends for whom loyalty is an important value. They stick together and cover for and defend each other. This cohesion is tested and demonstrated especially during their pranks, because they have to be able to rely on each other while doing them.
In this novel, John Green deals with important and difficult issues that teenagers often face, describing these in a loving, touching, and intelligent way. The novel provides a valuable and exciting read for teens and adults alike. We recommend this book to everyone.