jeudi 31 juillet 2008

The Great Perhaps

What happens when you go looking for something beyond the mundane and you find more than what you bargained for? This is by no means an easy topic to tackle but John Green does a magnificent job of doing just that in his book “Looking for Alaska”. It’s the story of Miles “Pudge” Halter, avid biography reader and fan of famous last words (his abiding motto is to go and find the great perhaps—as Rabelais) and his transfer to the Culver Creek Boarding School. It is at Culver Creek that he meets and befriends Chip “Colonel” Martin, Takumi and Alaska Young with whom he falls hopelessly in love with. Never mind that she is out of his league and as she puts it “totally in love with her boyfriend”. And since this is a book about teenagers, it is full of class room life and pranks (industrial blue colored dye in hair gel being involved in one) but it veers from such a simple direction once tragedy strikes.
This is an immensely likeable novel. It is one of those novels whose language just flows, is poetic and often beautiful. Add the fact that it captures perfectly the rhythm and cadence of teenage life without once resorting to cliché or is in any way condescending for their concerns. There are deeper things afoot in the novel and it is framed by Alaska herself when she poses that most existentialist of questions “how do we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” As questions go, this has been the focus of countless minds and the subject of books far too numerous to recount. And author John Green is able to handle such a topic in a graceful and humorous way. If I had a quibble with this book, it would be to say that perhaps the characters are a little aware and philosophical for teenagers but at the same time, it cannot be denied that teenagers now are much more worldly and knowing than grown ups give them credit for. But that is just the tiniest quibble in this otherwise excellent novel that ends in the most satisfyingly positive way. “That part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”

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