Twenty Better Questions: Looking for Alaska

1. What character(s) was your favorite? Why?

My favorite character in the book was probably Mr. Starnes, aka the Eagle.  He is so under-appreciated as a character.  It seemed as though, consistently throughout the book, he was genuinely concerned with the safety and well-being of the students.  He formed personal connections with the students to the point where they even gave him a nickname, regardless of the fact that it was supposed to make fun of his alertness in regards to mischief and mayhem.  He also seems to understand that these youths are attempting to find their identities and explore their individuality, so his main focus is allowing them to do so in a safe and secure environment.  However, this is never fully, or even partially, explored so all of this is just my personal take on the whole situation.

2. What character(s) did you dislike? Why?

The character that I disliked the most was Miles “Pudge” Halter.  I felt as though the book was written to make Miles out to be the victim of bullying, teases, and losing the love of his life.  I have some issues with this.  To start with, I could understand the writer wanting to make Miles the victim of bullying to emphasize his status as an outsider who connects with other outsiders and they rail against the world.  However, that’s it.  That’s the only thing I can get behind with this character.  Everything else is absolute trash, and not even the good kind of trash where I read it for the pure enjoyment of it being trash.

3. Does anyone in this work remind you of anyone you know? Explain.

Miles Halter, also known as Pudge, kind of reminds me of every so-called “nice guy” I have ever met in my life.  They have one skill that they believe sets them apart from others and their status as non-jock, non-popular, non-conformist, whatever, somehow gives them magical powers of “classiness” that every girl in the entire world ever is somehow unable to see.  They choose one girl to focus their creepy obsession on, are upset every time she dates anyone that is not them because “why can’t she see that I’m here” when, ironically enough, they have shut out every other girl ever because they weren’t pretty enough, smart enough, whatever enough, to be worthy of the “nice guy”‘s time.  In reality, they are just a guy, who really isn’t that nice, and feels as though he is owed the attention of the girl of his choice regardless of the fact that she is an independent person who does not owe him anything.

4. Are you like any character in this work? Explain.

Chip Martin, also known as the Colonel, reminded me of myself.  The reason for this is because he works very hard and refuses to be pushed around.  He does not let himself be saddened by his socioeconomic situation and is unashamed of where he came from and who he calls family.

5. If you could be any character in this work, who would you be? Explain.

I would not want to be anyone in this book.  Ever.  I would not want to Pudge because of reasons mentioned above.  I would not want to be Chip, even though I do relate to him, because I have no desire to be friends with Alaska Young at all.  The Eagle would not be a good match because I would not want his job in the slightest.  Everyone else in the book is exceedingly flat and boring and I could find nothing to make them relatable let alone someone I would wish to be.

6. What quality(ies) of which character strikes you as a good characteristic to develop within yourself over the years? Why? How does the character demonstrate this quality?

I think, if anything, I would want to develop the Colonel’s self-confidence.  This is because I myself lack self-confidence and I feel that this trait is important to make connections with people, try new things, go to different places, and essentially get the most out of life.  Chip demonstrates these qualities through his determination to be himself even when he wants to impress his girlfriend’s parents.  He refuses to be made ashamed of his background and even invites Pudge and Alaska to his house though they come from middle-class backgrounds compared to his own background of poverty.  Lastly, he does everything he can to find out the reason behind Alaska’s death, even if it is not perfect, because he understands that he and Pudge both need that closure.

7. Overall, what kind of a feeling did you have after reading a few paragraphs of this work? Midway? After finishing the work?

To be honest, I hated the book.  I felt that the writing style was boring and difficult to read at times.  It was not any sort of complexity that caused a challenge, but rather the fact that he would use the most ill-fitting synonyms of words and I could not understand why.  This did not change once I reached the midway point.  I despised how he, the author, seemingly kept trying to make the reader feel sorry for Pudge because Alaska was such a cock-teasing bitch even though she was in a relationship with another person, had no inclinations towards polyamory, and really owed none of her time and attention to him.  After finishing the work, I had entertained hopes that Pudge would come to the realization that friendship is not a consolation prize but a prize in and of itself and he should be happy that he had the chance to have that connection with Alaska before she died, but that never happened.  He ended the book, sans realization, with Pudge coming to the conclusion that he would always love Alaska and that she forgave him for letting her drive that night and that he forgives her for never giving him that “to be continued” that she promised.  Seriously, it was awful.

8. Do any incidents, ideas, or actions in this work remind you of your own life or something that happened to you? Explain.

The only idea that reminded me of my own life was that one should not be ashamed of where they come from.  There is no shame in coming from a background of poverty and becoming friends with those from different socioeconomic strata than your own.  Beyond that, there was nothing else that sparked any reminders.

9. Do you like this piece of work? Why or why not?

Nope, I did not like this piece of work at all.  By this point in the Twenty Better Questions, I think I have covered most of the reasons.  However, there is another reason that I strongly disliked this book.  This is the fact that none of the characters seemed to really grow or change as people in any substantial way.  I spent 221 pages hoping that some great realization about human connection would happen, but nope.  Instead it just worked to undermine female independence and personhood.  Fantastic.

10. Are there any parts of this work that were confusing to you? Which parts? Why do you think you got confused?

I was confused with John Green’s word choice in places.  In one bit he says that a character’s hair “was perennially wet”.  Nope, just… nope.  All of the nope.  “Perpetually” would have been a better word choice and is just as many syllables and letters as “perennially” so why?  This was not the only time that this happened in the book, but this is one of the most memorable.

11. Do you feel there is an opinion expressed by the author through this work? What is it? How do you know this? Do you agree? Why or why not?

I feel that there is a message of love and forgiveness being pushed, but I don’t agree with it at all.  As previously mentioned, the author is pushing the love between Alaska and Pudge, but she doesn’t love him like he loves her, and that really sets up the message of forgiveness later.  Her death keeps her from ever consummating that (nonexistent) love between her and Pudge, and he finds himself unable to forgive her for that.  This is in conjunction with how he believes that she blames him for not keeping her from driving while drunk and thus causing the fatal accident.  I could sort of get behind the whole “I blame myself for kinda, sort-of causing your death so I can’t forgive myself because I think you blame me” if it wasn’t so heavily intertwined with the “you were in a happy, stable relationship with another person but you owed me your love because I loved you” thing.

12. Do you think the title of this work is appropriate? Is it significant? Explain. What do you think the title means?

The title of this work is appropriate in that Miles is always chasing after Alaska, and it is significant because he is looking for her love in the first part and then looking for her forgiveness in the second part.  I think it means that Miles, who is miles away from Alaska in life-experience, coolness, whatever, is looking for her love, her approval, her attention until her death in which case he looks for absolution and her forgiveness.

13. Would you change the ending of this story in any way? Tell your ending. Why would you change it?

I would change the ending of the story to make it so that Pudge realizes how childish he was being by devaluing the worth of her friendship like that.  She was a beautiful soul, both inside and out (at least in his opinion when he wasn’t too busy hating her for not being with him romantically), and he should have been glad that she had chosen him to form an interpersonal connection with.

14. What kind of person do you feel the author is? What makes you feel this way?

I don’t really have a good basis on which to determine what kind of person I believe the author to be considering I have only read one of his books. However, I do get the sense that he is trying to write what he thinks people want to read. I felt this way because the book seemed almost ridiculously formulaic, even for him. Even though I haven’t read any of his other books, I do know the premise of The Fault in Our Stars. Essentially, bot and girl meet, they fall in love, tragedy strikes, and the relationship is broken. Boohoo, sob sob. He is even more formulaic with how he writes in Looking for Alaska that boy meets girl, he falls in love, she is sadly with someone else even though she could do so much better with someone like say him, girl does something unforgivable and has to make up for it, and guy graciously forgives her for it.

15. How did this work make you feel? Explain.

This work made me incredibly angry. The reason for this is that it only perpetuated the notion that guys are somehow victimized when a girl only wants to be friends and nothing more. The fact of the matter is that friendship is awesome in and of itself. That’s that.

16. Do you share any of the feelings of the characters in this work? Explain.

As mentioned previously, I share the Colonel’s refusal to be shamed by his background.

17. Sometimes works leave you with the feeling that there is more to tell. Did this work do this? What do you think might happen?

This work did not leave me with the feeling that there was more to tell. In fact the ending left me feeling that had Alaska survived, she would have left her boyfriend for Pudge even though there was no reason to do so because “Pudge really loved her and it wasn’t just infatuation and hot and cold feelings depending on how willing she was to pay attention to him”. I want absolutely none of that ever.

18. Would you like to read something else by this author? Why or why not?

Nope. If he wishes to write books that perpetuate harmful ideals such as the “friend zone” and that women owe men their time and attention for meanly putting them in the cold, cruel world of that “friend zone” then I have no desire to read anything else by him.

19. What do you feel is the most important word phrase, passage, or paragraph in this work? Explain why it is important.

I feel that the most important word in this work is “looking”. This is because the characters all seemed to be looking for something whether it be the “Great Perhaps”, connection, love, friendship, absolution, meaning, truth, etc. Everyone was looking for something.

20. If you were an English teacher, would you want to share this work with your students? Why or why not?

Nope. As I mentioned previously, the work is sort of poorly written, perpetuates harmful ideals, and really has nothing else to offer students or adults for that matter. If anything, the easy language and simple syntax would be good practice for struggling readers and ELL students, but that’s it.

looking-for-alaska

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6 thoughts on “Twenty Better Questions: Looking for Alaska

  1. Everyone likes to hate on this book, but you have to admit that some of the writing is very beautiful. Character development could’ve been a lot bettwe, but John Green can write beautifully. I will go to the grave arguing that this is a good book despite it’s stereotypical characters. I really enjoyed reading your reaction to this book. Great blog post!

    Like

    1. It is not the issue of good writing vs poor writing that was my biggest complaint, because I will admit to liking some of it. My favorite part being the bit with Takumi and his fox hat. My biggest complaint is that the whole “nice guy gets sidelined by the cocktease” devalues the inherent worth of the friendship and makes it more of a consolation prize instead. It also directly feeds into rape culture and the mentality that a guy who has graced a girl with his presence should be rewarded with a sexual relationship. It just felt too much to me that Pudge only continued to talk to Alaska with this idea in mind like “I put up with your bitchiness, now give me sex”. With that being said, I respect the fact that you like this book and would like to thank you for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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