Before I picked this up I’d already read one John Green book, Paper Towns, and because I wasn’t hugely impressed by that one, it took me quite a while to pick up another by him. I’m really glad to say that I enjoyed this one much more, though. It’s been days since I finished it and even though I really liked it, I’m still finding it hard to know what to say about it. Maybe it’s the indefinable quality of theme, because it rapidly changed from a lightish read to something much more and I guess I’m a bit stumped by it.
The story takes place in Culver Creek boarding school where our protagonist, Miles (Pudge, as his friends call him) Holter has just begun attending. As soon as Miles arrives at Culver Creek he meets Alaska, the girl from down the hall, who he’s instantly attracted, too. He becomes fascinated with her, nearly as much as he is with famous last words that he’s become somewhat of an expert in.
The first half of the book is centred on Miles’s developing relationship with Alaska, Chip a.k.a the Colonel, Takumi and Lara. Even though Miles is frequently in the company of all these characters, the story focuses on his relationship with Chip and Alaska. Takumi features infrequently and even though he’s somewhat obsessed with Alaska, he has a brief relationship with Lara.
The reason this book is so hard to review is because it was as if it was two separate stories, the first half being quite light, encompassing unrequited love, friendship, skirting authority and humour. The second half took on very different themes and without going into spoiler territory it’s impossible to say more.
The characters were mostly well developed, although because it was quite short it felt like events happened very suddenly. I would have appreciated some further development before the defining event took place as I wasn’t as invested in the characters as I would have liked.
I really enjoyed the first half of the book and loved the developing relationship between the central characters, underscored by humour. I found Alaska interesting and would have liked to have known her longer so that I could have better understand her motives. As it was, it was a worthwhile read but would have benefitted from more character development.