NOW A HULU LIMITED SERIES!
The award-winning, genre-defining debut from John Green, the #1 bestselling author of Turtles All the Way Down and The Fault in Our Stars
Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award • A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist • A New York Times Bestseller • A USA Today Bestseller • NPR’s Top Ten Best-Ever Teen Novels • TIME magazine’s 100 Best Young Adult Novels of All Time • A PBS Great American Read Selection • Millions of copies sold!
First drink. First prank. First friend. First love.
Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words—and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet François Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young, who will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.
Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A modern classic, this stunning debut marked #1 bestselling author John Green’s arrival as a groundbreaking new voice in contemporary fiction.
Newly updated edtition includes a brand-new Readers' Guide featuring a Q&A with author John Green
About the Author
John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), The Fault in Our Stars, and Turtles All the Way Down. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. John has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers and co-created the online educational series CrashCourse. You can join the millions who follow him on Twitter @johngreen and Instagram @johngreenwritesbooks or visit him online at johngreenbooks.com. John lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Read an Excerpt
“So do you really memorize last words?”
Excerpted from "Looking for Alaska"
Copyright © 2006 John Green.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults Top 10
An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers
A 2005 Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Kirkus Best Book of 2005
A 2005 SLJ Best Book of the Year
A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
"What sets this novel apart is the brilliant, insightful, suffering but enduring voice of Miles Halter." Chicago Tribune
"Funny, sad, inspiring, and always compelling." Bookpage
"Stunning conclusion . . . one worthy of a book this good." Philadelphia Inquirer
"The spirit of Holden Caulfield lives on." Kliatt
"What sings and soars in this gorgeously told tale is Green’s mastery of language and the sweet, rough edges of Pudge’s voice. Girls will cry and boys will find love, lust, loss and longing in Alaska’s vanilla-and-cigarettes scent." Kirkus, starred review
"Miles’s narration is alive with sweet, self-deprecating humor, and his obvious struggle to tell the story truthfully adds to his believability. Like Phineas in John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, Green draws Alaska so lovingly, in self-loathing darkness as well as energetic light, that readers mourn her loss along with her friends." SLJ, starred review
"...Miles is a witty narrator who manages to be credible as the overlooked kid, but he's also an articulate spokesperson for the legions of teen searching for life meaning (his taste for famous last words is a believable and entertaining quirk), and the Colonel's smarts, clannish loyalties, and relentlessly methodological approach to problems make him a true original....There's a certain recursive fitness here, since this is exactly the kind of book that makes kids like Miles certain that boarding school will bring them their destiny, but perceptive readers may also realize that their own lives await the discovery of meaning even as they vicariously experience Miles' quest." Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review
"Readers will only hope that this is not the last word from this promising new author." Publishers Weekly
“John Green has written a powerful novel—one that plunges headlong into the labyrinth of life, love, and the mysteries of being human. This is a book that will touch your life, so don’t read it sitting down. Stand up, and take a step into the Great Perhaps.”
—K.L. Going, author of Fat Kid Rules the World, a Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book
Reading Group Guide
Looking for Alaska
Everybody has a talent. Miles Halter’s is knowing the last words of a lot of different people—people like the author Rabelais, whose enigmatic last words “I go to seek a Great Perhaps” inspire the sixteen year-old to leave his family home in Florida and enroll in Culver Creek, a co-ed boarding school in Alabama. There he makes a new circle of friends: his roommate Chip, a scholarship student whom everyone calls “The Colonel;” Takumi, a slyly funny Japanese-American rapper; and sweet-spirited, Romanian-born Lara, who has trouble pronouncing the letter “i.” But most importantly he meets Alaska, a beautiful girl who “had eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor.” Miles quickly falls in love with this reckless, quirky, endlessly intriguing girl. An omnivorous reader, Alaska introduces him to a new set of last words — those of South American liberator Simón Bolivar — that pose an intriguing question, “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” It’s a question that takes on a deeper, more poignant resonance when an unthinkable tragedy invites Miles to examine the meanings of life . . . and death.
ABOUT JOHN GREEN
John Green is the author of Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. He lives in New York City.
SPEAKING WITH JOHN GREEN
Q. What’s the difference between writing fiction and lying?
A. To begin with, when you tell a lie, you generally do not admit upfront that it’s a lie. Like, if I am lying to you about who stole the cookie from the cookie jar, I am not going to preface it by saying, “While I am about to convince you that John Doe stole the cookie from the cookie jar, the cookie was actually stolen by me.” But when you write fiction, as with Looking for Alaska, it says “a novel” right on the cover. Before a reader has even opened the book, the writer has acknowledged that this is a story, and that the story does not faithfully recount events that actually occurred. The other big difference, I would argue, is that lies are attempts to hide the truth by willfully denying facts. Fiction, on the other hand, is an attempt to reveal the truth by ignoring facts. To paraphrase William Faulkner, I am much more interested in the truth than in the facts. One of the challenges in writing Alaska was learning not to overvalue facts. When I first started writing the book, I kept thinking I ought to include things that happened because they had happened. It took years before I was able to let go of the facts and focus on writing a true novel.
Q. In that vein, just how autobiographical is Looking for Alaska?
A. I have always danced around this question, and I think I’m going to continue dancing around it now. Like Miles, I grew up in Florida and attended a boarding school in Alabama. And the physical setting of Alaska is very, very similar to the physical place I attended boarding school. Generally, the book is probably more autobiographical than I usually acknowledge. But it is very much a work of fiction. The facts, I can assure you, were ignored.
Q. What was the catalyst for this novel? A. In the study of religion, there is this word theodicy, which refers to the question of why a God who is both loving and all powerful would allow there to be such unequal suffering in the world. In college, when I started to study religion, that was the question that interested me most. So in some ways, that was the catalyst for the novel. After I graduated from college, I worked for a while at a children’s hospital, where I encountered the same problem in stark, awful reality. It was in the hospital that I started to think about writing a story in which teenagers experience loss and a consuming guilt that cannot be easily assuaged. I started writing it just a few months after I left the hospital.
Q. Did you write it with a specific audience in mind?
A. Yes. From the very beginning, I wrote the book for high-school students.
Q. How did you come up with the book’s unusual structure?
A. I’d been working on the book with very limited success for about 18 months before September 11, 2001. And then in the days after 9/11, I was alone in my apartment in Chicago watching the commercial-free news 24 hours a day. On TV, people kept saying that this was a defining moment for my generation of Americans, that we would all remember the world in terms of before 9/11 and after it. And I thought about how time is usually measured that way: Christians date from before and after the birth of Christ. Muslims date from before and after the hijrah. We look back to the most important moment in our history, and that becomes the dividing line between what we were and what we are now. So I wanted to reflect on the way we measure and think of time. And also, for the characters in Alaska, there is a moment that changes their lives forever, and that redefines their understanding of the world. I wanted the importance of that moment to be central to the novel’s structure.
Q. Chip (i.e., the Colonel) says, “Everybody’s got a talent.” What’s yours?
A. I’m a pretty ordinary person in most respects, but I suppose I am good at finding and remembering trivia. I’m not sure whether that qualifies as a talent, but it’s the closest I’ve got.
Q. Miles’ teacher Dr. Hyde tells him to “be present.” What does that mean to you?
A. It means listening. Listening is a very rare skill, and in these noisy times, it is more and more valuable.
Q. Did you have a teacher like Dr. Hyde?
A. You’re finding a different way to ask the autobiography question! I feel like I should reward your perseverance with a fuller answer. I had several teachers who inspired me the way Dr. Hyde inspires Miles. But as a character, he is based on three particular teachers. In high school, I had a history teacher named Dr. Cooper. He lectured a lot and scared the hell out of his students and kicked you out of class if you didn’t listen—but also cared deeply about us. And then in college, my religion professor Donald Rogan and my writing professor P. F. Kluge both had a lot of Dr. Hyde in them. I stole lines from all three teachers, but particularly from Rogan.
Q. Miles learns to take religion seriously. Did you? And, if so, do you still take it seriously?
A. I did learn to take religion seriously, and in much the same way that Miles does: Donald Rogan was an excellent teacher. He was obviously smarter than me, and he found religion interesting, so I came to find it interesting also. Religion concerns itself with the same existential questions that I find interesting and important. I think I probably prefer the study of religion to the practice of it, though. That said, I do consider myself religious now. In high school, I had a classmate who attended a Southern Baptist church, and he was a nice guy, but he would always ask me questions about religion that I felt invaded my privacy. One time, he asked me, “How is your relationship with God, John?” I thought about it for a while, and then finally I said, “Complicated.” It was complicated then, and after studying religion in college and working as a chaplain at a children’s hospital and seriously considering a career as a minister, it remains complicated. I’m not embarrassed by my faith, and I’m also not embarrassed by my doubt.
Q. How did your time as a chaplain at a children’s hospital influence your development as a writer?
A. All the fiction I’ve written since working at that hospital has in some way echoed some feeling or experience or question that arose while I was at the hospital. In many ways, it was a before-and-after moment in my own life.
Q. The character of Alaska tells Miles, “The only real geniuses are artists.” Do you agree? And who are some people whom you regard as geniuses?
A. There’s a lot of my high-school self in the character Alaska, and I suspect I would have agreed with that statement as a teenager. But I think there are mathematical and scientific geniuses, too. I think genius is rare, but I don’t think it discriminates. I’m also not convinced that a person just is or is not a genius. I think that genius can come and go. Mark Twain wrote my favorite American novel, but he also wrote the awful Joan of Arc. Georg Cantor invented set theory and revolutionized our understanding of infinity, but he also thought Sir Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays. It’s a nebulous thing, genius. Unless you are Shakespeare.
Q. Miles writes, “Teenagers think they are invincible.” Did you when you were a teen? Do you, now, as an adult?
A. I was aware as a teenager of the fact that I might die, and it scared me a little. But I never felt like dying would affect my overall invincibility, if that makes sense. It’s a little like what Muhammad Ali said after his third fight with Joe Frazier. After the fight, which Ali won, Ali said that he thought at times that Frazier might kill him. “If he had killed me,” Ali said, “I would have gotten back up and won the fight. I would have been the first dead heavyweight champion of the world.” I felt like that as a teenager. I feel a little more fragile now. I still think people are invincible, but I’d rather not find out for sure.
Q. Because “booze and mischief” play significant parts in Looking for Alaska, the book has been challenged. Were you ever tempted to censor yourself when you were writing the novel?
A. No. It never even occurred to me that it might be a problem while I was writing it. I got nervous when the book came closer to publication, though. I have to give full credit to my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel. She was absolutely steadfast about refusing to censor the novel, even when I wasn’t. My friend David Levithan once said of gay writers, “We are political novelists who do not wish to be political.” I feel a bit of that when it comes to banning books from classrooms and libraries. I don’t want to have to fight that fight, but I won’t shirk the responsibility I feel to my books and my readers. Teachers have been trained to teach, and they know how to teach, and we need to fight to let them teach—whether it’s Catcher in the Rye (or Alaska, for that matter) in an English class or evolution in a Biology class.
Q. And finally: In the “Some Last Words on Last Words” section at the end of Looking for Alaska, you write, “I was born into Bolivar’s labyrinth, and so I must believe in the hope of Rabelais’ Great Perhaps.” Would you expand on this? And are there ever any truly last words?
A. The Dutch title of Alaska is Het Grote Misschien, which means The Great Perhaps. But if you type it into Babel Fish, it translates Het Grote Misschien as “The Big Maybe.” I’m undecided as to whether there are ever any truly last words. That’s the big maybe. As for the quote cited above, I mean that I believe in hope, in what is sometimes called “radical hope.” I believe there is hope for us all, even amid the suffering-and maybe even inside the suffering. And that’s why I write fiction, probably. It’s my attempt to keep that fragile strand of radical hope, to build a fire in the darkness.
- Discuss the book’s unusual structure. Why do you suppose Green chose this strategy for telling his story? How else might he have structured the same material?
- Miles tells the story in his own first-person voice. How might the book differ if it had been told in Alaska’s voice or the Colonel’s? Or in the voice of an omniscient narrator?
- The Colonel says “Everybody’s got a talent.” Do you?
- Miles’s teacher Dr. Hyde tells him to “be present.” What does this mean?
- John Green worked for a time as a chaplain in a children’s hospital. How do you think that influenced the writing ofLooking For Alaska?
- What do you think “The Great Perhaps” means?
- And how about Bolivar’s “labyrinth?”
- In the “Some last words on last words” section at the end of the book, Green writes, “I was born into Bolivar’s labyrinth, and so I must believe in the hope of Rabelais’ Great Perhaps.” What do you think he means by this?
- Has this novel changed the way you regard human suffering? And death?
- One of the characters, Dr. Hyde says, “Everything that comes together falls apart.” Do you think the author agrees? How does he deal with this Zen belief in his novel?
- Alaska loves these two lines from the poet W. C. Auden: “You shall love your crooked neighbor / With your crooked heart.” What do these lines mean to you and why do you think Alaska likes them so much?
- Miles writes, “Teenagers think they are invincible.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Was it necessary for Alaska to die?
- This novel is filled with wonderful characters. Who is your favorite? Why? Do you know any people like these characters?
- Can you imagine Miles and the Colonel as adults? What might they be like? What professions do you suppose they might choose?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I feel heavy. And empty. I have read the book. It is over. For me, anyways. This makes me sad. The reviews of this book make me sad, and also a little bit angry because when people say that a book like this is 'amazing,' I think that they do not understand. This book was enormous. Today I told a friend that I was reading a beautiful book called 'The Fault in Our Stars,' but that she had better not read it, because it was mine. I understand Hazel. This book was enormous, but it came and went very quietly. I do not want it to be a sensation. I do not want it to be sensational for anyone but me. I do not want it to be anything. I do not want it to be made into a movie. I want it to be loved. I am very conflicted. I do not want people to read it who will not understand. I think I understand. I feel like I am breaking it. Everything. But this is how I feel. I wish that I had not purchased this book electronically, because then I could take the copy that I do not own wherever I go, pages folded, spine cracking, soft cover bent and loved and worn and used and perfect. This book was enormous, and yet it came and went... so quietly. It is a quiet book. After. You cry. You laugh. But the after. It is a quiet book. Thank you, John. ~Me
If you have not read this book, I recommend immediately you get up and go to your nearest library and get this book. This book will blow your mind, one of the books I almost teared up in. The author greatest achievements in this book is how he builds gut wrenching tension after every chapter with the 100 day till and so on. And when you finally hit the climax you will be in disbelief. Oh and be prepared to fall in love with the most diverse and compelling characters ever written.
I was pleasantly surprised by Looking for Alaska. For me, it started out very young and teenager-ish, which is probably because.well, it's a book about a bunch of teenagers, doing very teenage things. For a while I was thinking that I was just listening to a book that was going to be basically just that, teenagers doing teenage things; drinking, smoking, sex, and tormenting each other (yes, all of the above are included in this book). I figured there was going to be some great disaster and a lesson learned and wam-bam, you've got a book. The thing is, the book received several great reviews that I just couldn't give up on it. People saying how great a book it was - usually "people" do know what they are talking about.well at least some of the time. It took half the book - and then it happened, the great disaster I was talking about before. The thing is, it's much greater than you wanted or expected. And John Green is a genius, because by this time, you're laughing and enjoying yourself with these characters, so the blow is not just to the characters, but you feel it too. So, no, this book is not about a bunch of teenagers, doing teenage-y things, no matter how much of it is included in the book. It's a book about life. It's a book about very young people attempting to discover the meaning of life, love, true friendship, having fun, tragedy, depression, and even God. I was so impressed with some of the things that the author included about God, and religion in general, and not just one but several different religions. I am a Christian, and while he was simply skimming the surface of religions and religious beliefs, John Green nailed some things on the head, or at least included things that nailed it on the head. My favorite religious section: the discussion about the lady (I can't remember names right now - and since this is an audiobook, no book to reference) who wanted to destroy Heaven and Hell because she wanted people to love God not because he could get them into Heaven, keep them out of Hell, but because God is God! Many of the reviews I had read said that due to the mature nature of some of the stuff in the book, it probably isn't for young teenagers. I would have to agree. There are moments when I felt like smoking and drinking and even sex was not glorified exactly, but it seemed normal. And it is, somewhat, but as adults and parents, we should attempt to move and motivate for it not to be normal. On the flip side, the consequences of some of these actions are shown throughout the book.
i loved it. i cried throughout the entire 'after' part. like a baby. the only reason i regret reading this book is that now i don't believe any book will ever measure up to this one. absolutely great. there's nothing more to it!
When reading this book i laughed, became angried, and cried. This book is so gut wrenching that you can't put down the book. Looking for Alaska is a quick read and a good one too. The mysterious Before and After is quite ingenious if you ask me. I felt as though i knew something was going to happen but until that point it never really struck me. The quote "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?" plays a huge part through out the book. This book is very relatable in the sense that you are a teenager or you once were the average teenager looking for adventure. I reccomend this book to anyone over the age of 13.
This book was a intriguing book with twist and the every day life of some teens . You get to look into a world of a group of teenagers and see lust , drugs use , pranks , sex and everyday teens exploring themselves and the things around them just trying to keep out of trouble . The before will have you in depths of the book just to see if pudge and alaksa end up together . And to get to the after. Were the book changes courses completely . Ive only read this book once until i lent it to a friend and never recieved it back . Im buying it again bexause its worth the read . No mattter what book i purchase little peaces of the colonel , pudge, alaska and the others will stary in your mind , this is a once in a lifetime book made by an inspiring author who really tries to capture hopeless teens in love or lust . Each having their dofferent qwerks an intresting things abot them . Buy this book , read this book , you will NOT regret it .
i love john green, so i was expecting a lot out of this book. i was not disappointed. this is tied with harry potter as my favorite book of all time. i love the theme, i love the characters, i love all the pranks that are played, i love that miles memorizes last words (just like me!), i love all of it. it's a little inappropriate at times, so definitely a 15+ age range though. but DEFINITELY a must read. can't wait for the fault in our stars! DFTBA!
I'd watched the Vlogbrothers for the longest time w/o reading one of John's books. My friend actually had to rave about it before I allowed her to loan it to me. Don't wait like I did! READ THIS FANTASTIC BOOK NOW!
I absolutely adore this book. Its my favorite by John Green. Looking for Alaska will make you see life like you have never seen it before. This book is shocking, mysterious, soooo funny, and sad. There wasn't one time when I felt like I was getting bored. Every moment had a new way of pulling you into the story. I read this book in one day and one day I decided to read it again and it was as good as it was the first time. This is a captivating story and has an amazing plot. Everybody should read this!
Quick read. Thrilling,touching,amazing and life changing.
John Green has a way of writing deep and dark secrets of my life... The Fault in Our Stars in my favorite book and I want the world to love it But at the same time it's my little secret It's a preview of my life and for someone, Someone who won't understand me, my life, Hazel's life... It's a waste for them to read They can come to love the book but never have close to as many connections as I will have. As they should have. I want his books to be loved, and understood, and never forgotten because they are truly a treasure.
“Looking for Alaska” by John Green. This book is for people who enjoy reading a suspenseful, and dramatic love story. It can also be a bit tragic for a young girl gets her life taken in an accident. The book begins with a boy named Miles whose parents are having a going away party for him. Miles will be attending his first day at Culver Creek Collage. When he arrives he meets his new roommate in a towel. The man was a stalky short guy with an attitude that went by the name of “The Colonel.” He also meets the girl of his dreams named Alaska which he meets when she tells them a story that happened over the summer. The first night at Culver Creek he was duct taped in the middle of the night and chucked into the lake just for being friends with the Colonel. Miles earned the name “Pudge” for being skinny. Miles goes through some events that almost gets his suspended from Culver Creek. They go to this place every day called the “smoking hole.” The Eagel which is the principal of Culver Creek catches them and they have to attend jury to see what their punishments are. Alaska and the Colonel tell the Engle that it was just them and he lets them off with cleaning duty. There was an upcoming Announcement Day were they play a prank on the Eagle. I highly recommend this book. I love reading books with that are suspenseful. This is a great book I hope you take the time to read it.
I love this book, as well as John Green's other books. It's brilliantly written, and it makes you feel all the emotions as well as though the characters are some of your closest friends. I would recommend this book to anyone!
Ive read thia book about 10 times love it
I am extremely disappointed with this book. It has so many raving reviews. Maybe all the hype got my expectations up to high… I had such a hard time reading this book. It was just boring! I skipped pages here and there to get through it faster. The way it is set up with a count down to the "main event" of the story make you anticipate something so mind blowing, but it wasn't. I will admit that the event was not what I expected but it was not thrilling. The characters were uninteresting and unrelatable. They did not seem like realistic high school kids. Alaska is very annoying. No one acts like that and if they did they would have no friends. She is all over the place. Maybe the story would have been better if we heard it from her point of view, that way we would have learned more about why she acts the way she does. Maybe it is because I am not a teen anymore and that made it hard for me to relate. But I am only 20 and it cannot be that I am that disconnected from those who are about 4 years younger. I am just disappointed. The book didn't make me feel sad, or angry, or any other emotion but annoyance. I do not understand these endless 5 star reviews.
This will be in capitals to express my pain I LOVE THE BOOK BUT WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING BUYING THE BOOK DO IT DO IT NOW IT IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I HAVE EVER READ THE OTHERS BEING ALL THE OTHER JOHN GREEN BOOKS YOU NEED TO READ IT OR YOUR LIFE WILL BR INCOMPLETE Thank you for your time
Dear "me", I understand your thoughts completely. Anyone who has read any john green book understands. Once you finish it. There is no going back
The first time I had the pleasure to read this book was in high school, recommended by my librarian. I finished it that night and walked back in half asleep with a wide grin on my face. The plot and storyline the author portrays in this book is a rollorcoaster of 'oh's and 'awes, with one heck of an ending. I continue to this day to recommend this to anyone whom listens.
Existentialism lived out in your mind as you read, the author has a keen ability to weave the most complex questions of our human existence into the dialogue of teens. Exquisite
I could not put this book down! I laughed, cried, everything. John Green is a genius,and I want to read it over and over!
The compelling story of Pudge and his friends is like no other. John Green really knows how to tug on your heartstrings. Looking For Alaska will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and most importantly, you will never forget it.
Looking for Alaska is a classic that anyone could and should love. For some odd reason I have the need to know what happens after. It is like AIA in The Fault in our Stars. I need a sense of closure. The end is just not enough. I crave for more text from John Green.
One of, if not, my favorite book of all time. The characters are so realistic and enguaging. It felt so real like i was there the entire time.
A friend told me about this book, she said it was good so I bought it. OH MY GOD!!! It was so good!!! I couldn't put it down for a minute!!
It's about a boy named Miles, who goes to a new school. There he meets a girl named Alaska. He falls for her. But then something happens and everythings differnt.
I woulnd recommend this book to any of my friend. GO READ IT!!!!
Sad but good book. It just gravitates you in! This book is... LITT!