Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
First Published: March 3, 2005
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Mental Health Fiction, Young Adult
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 Francois 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.
If our early years are our Spring then adolescence is an invincible summer that feels like it’ll never end. Being a teenager, everything seems so much bigger, more life-changing, everything feels like a big deal. Miles goes to a boarding school seeking his great perhaps, the great unknown that will upend his boring life. At school, Miles meets Alaska, a magnetic young woman with a bad reputation, and quickly falls head over heels.
“Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.”
What made this book special to me was that I just found it so relatable, I was reminded so much of how my high school experience had been; the story takes place in 2005, the year I graduated high school. I was that kid that drifted between friend groups before landing in with the uncool crowd that hung out behind the woods and smoked. The colonel, Takumi, and Alaska felt like old friends, I loved all of these characters so much.
The story is not without its problems and is split into two parts, the before as we get to know Miles and the new friends that he makes, and “after,” an event that changes the friend group’s lives forever. I kept going back and forth about how I felt about the latter half of the novel. Miles is a frustrating character that makes a lot of things about himself, but at the same time, it is behavior that is completely understandable for a teenager that is going through a hard time. The search to find meaning in something so sudden is ultimately useless, but understandable. I enjoyed the philosophical aspects of this novel, about life and the people that we choose to spend our time with.
“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
I have fallen in love with this little story and am glad that I decided to read it because initially, I was really not all that interested in this book. I purchased it as a gift for my husband in an attempt to get him into reading, after learning that John Green was greatly inspired by As Simple As Snow, my husband’s favorite book. It was my first John Green novel and it certainly will not be my last.