Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary/Realistic Fiction, Standalone
Published: March 3rd, 2005 by Dutton
Paperback, 221 pages
How I Got This Book: Checked it out from my library
Why I Picked It Up?: This is the last novel by John Green (with the exception of Will Grayson) that I had left to read, and I have heard that it is great, and OF COURSE I WANTED TO READ IT!
Book Jacket Blurb: “Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same.”
Thoughts: (There may be minor spoilers. Be warned).
Okay, so I have given myself some time to digest and reflect on this book. This is one of those books that I just needed to fully process before I started writing my review. And I have decided that this is one of the books I have to respond to in letter form. So here we go.
Dear John Green,
When I picked up this book, I had no idea what this story was about. NO. IDEA. And I was really not prepared for this.
I found myself just overwhelmed with all of it. Thoughts, feelings, burdens, beliefs, these characters, the characters in my real life story…I just didn’t know where my reality ended and the story began. And that, to me, is the definition of a great book. One that literally draws you in to the pages, and you suddenly find that you, yourself, are in the story (and it really didn’t help that it takes place in my city).
I was incredibly anxious. As the chapters counted down, I just got more and more nervous and anxious and worried and afraid. “173 days before”, “94 days before”, “41 days before”, “two days before”…….I am telling you, by the time I got to one day before, I was a nervous wreck. I had no idea what to expect or what was going to happen, but I was just so anxious! So for that, I applaud you. You have successfully and beautifully created a story that invokes all of the emotions at once.
I am truly amazed at the range of emotions I could feel while reading a 221 page story.
There is so much to reflect upon. There are so many philosophical and religious questions to ponder. As I was reading this story of Miles’ growth and discovery, I was also growing and discovering. I became Pudge, and the Colonel, and Alaska, all at once. And who are these characters? They are flawed being trying to find their way in the world, trying to be okay with who they are and forgive themselves for who they aren’t, same as me. They are me, and I am them. I can see myself in each of them, and I am each of them. And this is why reality blurred for me, because this book became real for me.
So what did I learn about the identities of Alaska, and Pudge, and Colonel, and myself? It is our flaws that make us real.
How can you come to grips and accept that which is unknown and you don’t understand? Isn’t this the question? Isn’t this what we strive to accomplish, struggle to learn? What is the labyrinth, and how do you navigate it? How do you find peace amidst the chaos of the labyrinth? How long do you search for answers?
How can you forgive blame, especially when you blame yourself?
You make me ask so many questions, Mr. Green. I can see how this is a story that you used to begin to sort out your feelings about grief and loss. This story suddenly and unexpectedly became a story that I used to sort out my feelings about loss, losses that are from some time ago but still hurt, grief that I still live with everyday. How do you grieve someone you are so angry with?! How do you find peace amidst the pain? Why does it still hurt that he just disappeared? You used this story to explore the many facets of grief and loss so that you could begin to understand the process, and that is evident. It is so evident that you also forced me to explore the many facets of MY grief and loss….
This story became so personal to me. This story became me.
You emphasize the concept of last words throughout this story. How arbitrary or how fitting they can be. In those last moments, what do you remember? What is most important? When you don’t know that they may be the last words, that last conversation with someone….how do you know that you need to say everything in that moment? How DO you navigate this labyrinth?
Forgiveness is universal. So is grief. And many times, the two go hand and hand, and that makes that period of suffering and pain even harder.
Who am I?
“Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’. I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”
That is all we can hope, in the end.
I hope it is beautiful.
Dear John Green, please know, you have reached out to me personally. You have told a story that has become my story, that IS my story. If you wrote this book in an effort to touch one person’s life, just know you have succeeded.
This goes deeper than just a book. This story is real life, with all it’s flaws. And it is beautiful.
Love and hope and beauty,
This book goes on my top shelf (5 out of 5 stars). But honestly, this book is so much more than a rating.