Everyone knows John Greene’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” but there’s another book of his that you should really be looking at. Photo from amazon.com.
When I was 13, I read John Green’s most famous novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” and, like most people who read it in middle school, loved it. I finished it in one day, made my friends read it and watch the movie with me and envied Shailene Woodley’s effortless-looking midwestern pixie cut for years. The novel was my favorite book for the next two years. That’s 10 percent of my life, just for the record.
Recently, I’ve noticed people who have read “The Fault in Our Stars” starting to bash the book and John Green, which honestly makes me pretty upset. Is it the holy grail of novels I thought it was at age 13? No, of course it’s not, but it shaped me heavily as a reader and made me realize the joy a good book can bring when it totally encompasses your life.
Last summer, I read Green’s debut novel “Looking for Alaska,” and ultimately deemed my favorite of all of his works.
Have you ever imagined what your life would be like as a high school senior away at boarding school in Alabama, trying to find the meaning of life, breaking all the rules with your incredible group of underdog friends, eating fried food every day without feeling the effects and living the idealized version of a high schooler’s life? Of course, you have. That’s why you need to give Green another chance and read this book (if you haven’t already).
The story revolves around Miles “Pudge” Halter, a 17-year-old so obsessed with people’s last words, he voluntarily ships himself off to his father’s old high school, Culver Creek Boarding School, in order to find his “great perhaps” (last words of poet François Rabelais), or the meaning of life.
There, he meets some pretty remarkable people and befriends them quickly. His new roommate, Chip “The Colonel” Martin, Takumi Hikohito, Lara Buterskaya and Alaska Young — the girl he instantly falls for.
But more important than his crush on Alaska, Miles finds that she is one of the only people he can relate to in regards to his fascination with last words. A bookworm, her favorite last words, and ones she resonates with as much as Miles does with his “great perhaps,” are the last words of her favorite book, “The General in His Labyrinth” by Gabriel García Márquez. The words are “how will I ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” Miles finds out they affect Alaska more than he would have ever hoped.
It’s a John Green book, so obviously tragedy strikes, and Miles and his friends must find out, not the meaning of life, but how to go on in their lives and grow up without ever getting the answers to their grand, existential questions.
Not only are the themes within the book untouchable, but the language is also beautiful which is not a defining factor in a novel, but always an added plus. I mean, just look at this quote, “When adults say, ‘Teenagers think they are invincible’ with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”
This is just one of the many beautiful quotes from the novel. And on top of this, the characters are loveable — the writing makes you feel like you’re one of them — a part of their exclusive friendship, taking part in the crazy shenanigans only high schoolers are gutsy enough to. The novel is all-encompassing and I felt like I was in the world of Culver Creek exclusively for a week after I finished reading.
So in a time where we can’t often see many of our friends, and even sometimes family members, I would highly recommend checking this book out and becoming a part of this world and the lives of these characters for yourself.