Miles Halter is fascinated by people's last words, and when he is officially through leading his own dull life, Miles decides there is no use waiting until death to seek what Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps."
So he steps away from his mischief-less, friendless, challenge-less life in Florida to attend boarding school in Alabama. His dirt-poor yet ingenious roommate, Chip, ironically names the tall and gawky Miles "Pudge," and teaches him, along with Chip's best friend, Alaska, how to take risks. Pudge, like every other boy at the school, immediately falls for the gorgeous, brilliant and mysteriously self-destructive Alaska, who launches him headfirst into this Great Perhaps that he had been seeking.
"Looking For Alaska" is absolutely flawless, with crisp, articulate language and stunningly realistic characters. It is a crooked love story that will appeal even to those who don't like romance, and has a deeply meaningful narrative that deals with life, death and the things in between. The story is told from the perspective of the cogitative Miles, whose desire for answers makes this book captivating up until the last page.
The book is written in a unique "before and after" format, counting down the days to some unknown event that you as a reader only can guess, and then charting the days following.
It is timed perfectly, delivering information in a discreet, half-foreshadowing manner while never revealing too much.
Although the book is labeled as young adult, it deals with heavy issues, and sometimes very mature themes. It has been banned in multiple school districts, but it is all written in a very tasteful and somewhat artistic method that keeps it from being raunchy. I would recommend it for ninth-graders or older, more or less depending on their maturity level and the opinion of the child's parents.
"Looking for Alaska" has immediately become one of my favorite young adult novels, and I can't wait to read more from this promising author.