on August 24, 2007
Miles Halter is the type of high-schooler who always faded into the background at his public school in Florida. He had few friends, by choice as much as by fate, and wanted only to study his passion--memorizing the last words of people who had died. After reading the dying words of poet Francois Rabelais, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps", Miles is convinced that there's more to life than what he's so far experienced.
So Miles sets off to spend his junior and senior years at Culver Creek, a private boarding school in Alabama. There he gains his first nickname "Pudge" (a misnomer, by far, since Miles is quite skinny); meets his first love, Alaska Young; has his first sexual encounter with a Romanian girl named Lara; and gains two great male friends, Chip "The Colonel" Martin and Takumi Hikohito. He also experiences the joys and sickness of getting drunk, the strangeness of smoking cigarettes, and the unadulterated pleasure of playing pranks.
Pudge's new group of friends have their own quirks--The Colonel memorizes countries, capitals, and populations; Alaska collects books for her Life's Library that she hasn't yet read; Takumi relishes being The Fox. They all work together to irritate their teachers, avoid confrontation with The Eagle, the school's dean, and pull off pranks against the rich Weekday Warriors that are the popular clique at Culver Creek.
But LOOKING FOR ALASKA is mostly the story of growing up, of falling in love, of dealing with loss, and getting through life as best that you can. With wonderful dialogue, fascinating prose, and characters that are so real you'll think you know them personally, this is a book well worth reading. Not just is it the story of a group of teenagers looking to find their way out of the labyrinth of loss, or just the story of finding our Great Perhaps, LOOKING FOR ALASKA is about living the best life that can be led.
I loved this story, and highly recommend it. Once you do, you'll realize it's no surprise that it won the Teen's Top 10 Award and the Michael J. Printz Award--in fact, it probably deserves more.
Reviewed by: Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius"
on April 10, 2004
Being close to Peter's age, I read his first two books soon after they were written and loved them. When I saw that he had written a book about Alaska, one of my dream destinations, I had to buy it. I decided that I would read this book before making any concrete Alaska travel plans. I've almost completed the book and have had a hard time putting it down. It truly fuels my desire to see the REAL Alaska. In fact, I just told my husband yesterday that we need to not only visit Alaska in the summer, as most everyone does, but in the winter also. Being the Florida sun-lover that he is, of course he thought I was crazy. But I would love to have taken the 1 1/2 year adventure that Peter took. He has a way of drawing you into his stories so that you feel you've been there, too. I was totally amazed and inspired by the grueling and dangerous lifestyle choices made by many of the individuals and families that Peter met. I recommend this book to anyone with a sense of adventure and desire to learn about life in wild places.
on December 28, 2003
I gave this to my Dad, an aweseome man, really, and an engineer, but with a soul.
I discovered Peter Jenkins when my roomate at college told me to read his first book, `A Walk Across America' when I was complaining about how pathetic this country was. He actually walked across the whole country right out of college, which is amazing, but what was truely amazing was that he stopped and worked with all kinds of different people, very different from himself. He discovered this country like no one I have ever read about and made me wonder about it and realize that I was being a bit silly for condemning it without knowing much more about it than the Boston suburbs.
Anyway since then I have become a fan of Peter Jenkins, eventhough he is more the age of my Dad.
I bought the audio version of `Looking for Alaska' for my Dad for a holiday gift and listened to it before giving it to him, as an escape from finals.
First of all Peter Jenkins has a very calming voice. And best of all he brought me to a place I had only faintly dreamed of, Alaska, and showed me more about my country.
Very few people really listen to people and feel their lives and do not judge their place in this world. Peter does and I would give anything to be able to travel with him somewhere, someday. Come to think of it I already have. I will not be the same person after reading two of his books and listening to this one.
The other thing I like about Peter is that he brings to life people I would normally not agree with or want to know and I end up at least being open to them and their points of view.
In this politically correct world, especially here at college, where everyone at time sounds like clones or drones, how refreshing.
And maybe my Dad will take Peter's example and take me on an adventure like he did all his kids in Alaska. Or for that matter, maybe I should take him on one.
on December 28, 2003
Got this for Christmas from my nineteen year old daughter, now a Freshman in college. Have been listening for four days on a drive to Florida and back.
This book brings us the real Alaska, which the Discovery Channel and National Geographic often do not. Yes, there is the wild beauty of Alaska in this book but there are also the seedy bar rooms. Many times these views we get of Alaska on TV only show the besuty. There is a Brown bear but instead of running down the creek after a salmon in the gold light of sunset it is defending its food by almost killing this guy who wanders too close. This is one of the most hair raising, terrifying experiences I have ever heard of. There are real live people hunting moose (for those of you that live in la-la land like one of the reviewers prior, people still hunt in Alaska to live off the meat and just to plain hunt. Hey it has not been that long since we were all predators. There are the intense visions of bright blue glaciers but also the intensely moving story of a Native woman struggling with self realization, substance abuse and marriage. Wow, sounds like reality not some Disney-fake place many of the la-la land livers amoung us prefer.
Bottom line, wonderful listening experience. Peter Jenkins is no James Earl Jones but I like the author to read their own work. I will never think of Alaksa again the same way. I commend Peter Jenkins for telling the story of the real last frontier. The more phony our work places and politicians and places of worship get, the more they run and hide from the tough truth and sugar coat our world the more I like Peter Jenkins work.
My wonderful daughter who gave me this thinks this Peter Jenkins is cool, I think he is the real deal, and I can proudly say we both strongly agree on something. By the way the portion of this book, written by Peter's daughter, Rebekah, is quite wonderful. Hopefully she will write more. I am very glad they had her read her portion of this very fine audio book.
on April 23, 2015
Miles is in search of The Great Perhaps. (Aren't we all?) He ends up meeting a beautifully troubled Alaska. A darkly fascinating girl he so badly wants to get tangled up in. She is endlessly fascinating, while his only gimmick is his ability to recall famous last words.
This book drove me crazy and broke my heart. Definitely my favourite book by the always amazing John Green.
on July 14, 2006
I purchased "Looking for Alaska" on the recommendation of the staff of my local bookstore, after an exhausting search for a quality book for my teen son. My son enjoyed it immensely, barely putting it down. My daughter devoured it next and I was stealing it from her when she was doing other things. Yes! The book is that good!
John Green has written a stunningly insightful novel whose characters are real, and situations are familiar to many teens, as is evidenced by the fan mail to his website.
I could rave on and on about what a good book this is, but I won't. The book won the Michael L. Printz Award, and has been nominated for other awards.
Just order it. For a guy or a girl, or yourself order it!
on December 26, 2003
As in previous books written by Peter Jenkins, the author continues to examine himself and how he relates to both family responsibilities, (now including 6 children, 2 wives) and his desire to be a free spirit. His supportive wife accompanies him to Alaska and establishes a home base in Seward, Alaska for a year and a half. Various family members visit them, go on side trips, and their youngest daughter attends school there. He ventures out to watch the fisherman catch salmon, camps near a glacier with a daughter, takes a long ride with a conflicted woman, and acquaints himself with the Alaskan government, and other things.
The book is interesting but far too lengthy. There are repetitions. One nice touch is the inclusion of journal entries by daughter Rebekah as she enjoys excursions both with her Dad and alone. She will be a marvelous writer in the future.
Most of us here in the lower 48 are familiar with Alaska - the beauty, the cold, the wildlife, the oil pipeline, the salmon fishing, glaciers, and so many things unique to this state. Peter Jenkins leads the reader to believe he enjoys personal risk as he makes friendly with strangers and writes down their life stories for us. Many are worth reading but could be condensed. He doesn't seem to mind risking the lives of his family either. It's all part of the Alaska experience to him, loneliness, darkness, attacks from the wildlife, pot smoking hippie groups, bar scenes, as well as magnificent scenery and flying with the bush pilots across the endless white terrain.
Included in his travelogue is a trip into the bush with his father in law, an avid hunter whose idea of a thrill of a lifetime is killing an Alaskan moose. He does and he receives his thrill. This reader was not thrilled.
Along with stories of people living in Alaska trying to find themselves and enjoying their own pity parties, there were two memorable accounts of folks moving to this challenging state to give something of themselves to help others - the school teachers who moved to Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city, to teach the native children and the veterinarian who lives deep in the bush but near a beautiful lake. He journeys far and wide in the area to tend to the animals and help others.Satellite telephones and access to the internet make living in Alaska far easier than ever before.
The author did not include any stories of the polar bear or cruise ship adventures. The account of the dog mushers was, in my opinion, the best one in the book. Salmon fishing was well described.
There is a map of Alaska in the beginning of the book for reference. The long book is worth reading if one is thinking about spending a year in the state, tho it does not cover the state in entirety. I, for one, will continue watching the Discovery Channel for Alaskan stories and reading more true adventures, eating salmon caught in Alaskan waters and keeping warm in New Jersey. I hope Peter Jenkins finds what he is searching for someday. This book is about him.
on November 29, 2003
A fellow commuting neighbor told me I just had to listen to Peter Jenkins latest adventure book, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. I had read his monster best seller A WALK ACROSS AMERICA when I was in college and enjoyed it immensely. I listen to audio books all week long as I travel to work on the California highway system. This is one of the best audio books I have ever listened to. I felt like I was under that Brown Bear as it was biting through that man's skull. I was there when Peter and his talented daughter, Rebekah, were in kayaks next to icebergs and glaciers and even teared up as they both wrote of that intensely moving, rare father/daughter moment. I became for a time one of the Eskimo whalers living on the slab of ocean ice.. An incredible experience. Loved hearing Peter read the book, and his daughter, Rebekah, read the portions of the book she wrote, as well. This listening experience, over twelve hours of it, was why I prefer the actual author reading their work. They may not be as dramatic or their voices are not as trained but it is a more real, more moving for me. AND, really loved the natural sounds of Alaska and the brief voice excerpts of some of the main characters they used. This book on tape should win some award. Justina from California by way of The University of Michigan
on October 29, 2003
Peter Jenkins spent 18 months getting to know Alaska and its people. This 400-page description of his journey of discovery brings Alaska into sharper focus for those of us "lower-48ers" who haven't been there.
In this book, the natural beauty of the state and the bitter cold share billing with the people in making a memorable story. The author has personality and style that allows him to quickly connect with strangers -- a useful trait when one needs invitations and personal stories to fill out a book. Thus we meet Tina, a Prince of Wales Island lady who has lived a life of turmoil between reflecting the glamour of life as depicted by People Magazine and the certainty and pride of her native Indian culture. We meet a captain and his crew in Barrow (the country's northernmost town, with the northernmost post office, the northernmost Mexican restaurant, etc.), waiting on the dangerous frozen arctic ocean ice to spear a whale as his forefathers have for centuries. We meet bush people, particularly one family who lives alone, sixty miles from the nearest road and just below the Arctic Circle, in the warm embrace of nature and family while 40 degree below zero temperatures lurk outside. We meet fishermen who take Jenkins on to crew their boat on salmon runs, guides who take vacation hunters to the wilderness to shoot moose, Iditarod champion dog sled mushers, the neighbors in Seward (where the Jenkins family has home base for their sojourns), bush pilots, politicians, Eskimos and escapees from the continental US living out dreams and fantasies in the great north.
Always, the landscape and cold dominates. Alaska is a land of immense beauty as well as immense area. Jenkins describes mountains whose rise from surrounding plain to peak rivals any in the world and frozen tundra that stretches well beyond all the area the eye can see. Bears, eagles, moose and other wildlife are ever-present in Alaska. (To an East Coast American, it must seem like living in a zoo.) Even in moderately sized towns like Seward, the police log reads like a Jeff Corwin Experience as people deal with bears in their garbage, walking through their yards and lunching on the occasional family pet.
Jenkins does a good job of weaving human experiences and natural observation into a book. In Alaska, it would be impossible to do otherwise. Distance, bitter cold and sunlight dominate so many aspects of life that they are a part of the beginning, middle and end of every story.
I thought the author sometimes wrote with too many words, particularly when he allowed his wandering thoughts to drift onto the page. A good editor would have improved the flow in parts of this book. A few of his experiences lagged and seemed out of place among the high adventures and physical challenges presented in most parts. This is a minor quibble, however. About 80 - 90% of the places he goes and personalities he introduces fascinated this reader and served to give me a much better understanding of life in Alaska.
on November 30, 2002
As I professor of writing, I have been deeply impressed with Peter Jenkins writing and the refinement and improvement it has shown over the years. Every one of his books is very different, a tribute to his adaptability and skill.
We teach that everyone should develop an original style, he has done that, a deceptively simple, yet often profound one. He allows his subjects to live, a rare talent of his to be sure.
I noticed in a newspaper article about him that this latest book, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, probably his best piece in so far as capturing a place won BookList's "TOP TEN LITERARY TRAVEL BOOK of the YEAR."
I remember arguing with a collegue that Jenkins was literary in his own way, I guess others are saying it now.
BRAVO Peter, another fantastic journey you have taken us on, keep developing that style.
I predict your books will still being read and published, like your 25 year old A WALK ACROSS AMERICA, when most of the other best sellers of today are gone.