I really wanted to like this book. Mostly because I like John Green. He’s very funny. (See here, courtesy of Mother Reader…) He’s smart. He’s hip(ish). I liked his argument about this book, how it’s not p*rn (that’s the second video on the link). I thought for sure I’d like the book. Sure, I knew it’d be different from the YA stuff I usually read and like (I did watch the video after all), but I figured that the smart, funny side of John Green that I like would come through. (Besides, books that get banned always make me a bit curious…)
It was smart. The writing’s very smart, very tight. And it is funny in parts. And, sure, I don’t want M reading it right now (it’s a bit more littered with the F-bomb than I would expect from a YA), I could see some 11th or 12th grade English teacher wanting to teach this, and I feel like they’d be mature enough to handle (heck, they probably *see* and *hear* this every day!) the book.
What I didn’t expect was for it to feel so… pretentious.
Miles is bored with his little life in Florida. No real friends, no real interests (except for “collecting” people’s last words through reading biographies), and so when he reads Francois Rabelais’s last words, Miles decides that he wants to go find the “Great Perhaps”. So, he enrolls in the private school his father went to, Culver Creek, and goes to find his great perhaps. What he finds is the Colonel, Alaska, Takumi, Lara, booze, cigarettes, and pranks. So deep. It was all a bit edgy, a bit too hip for me. I kept rolling my eyes thinking “wow this is how people find meaning in their life??”
Then Alaska dies. (Sorry. That’s a big spoiler. I thought the “before” and “after” had to do with sex, not with death.) And Miles and everyone else goes into free fall, not caring (hence more booze and cigarettes), not socializing, hating Alaska for leaving. Because you see, she’s the one with Energy, with Life, with Drive. And it’s such a waste that she’d be out driving drunk at 3 a.m. and crashed headlong into a cop car. So, Miles and the Colonel decide to find out why she died, how she died, (her last words would be nice), pull a grand prank for her, and find their way out of the Labyrinth of Suffering.
I suppose this would resonate with some. And I’m not making fun of anyone that it does resonate with. Really. I think Green was trying to search out some Meaning of Life, some depth, and by making two of his four main characters poor(ish), troubled, scholarship kids, he avoided most of the “rich brats trying to find Meaning” cliches. Still, it just rang shallow for me. It lacked the something that would give it true depth (perhaps it was the booze and cigs? Or maybe that everyone was at an exclusive boarding school? Hard for me to find meaning either place.), and therefore would allow it to truly resonate with me.
That said, I’ll probably give Green’s other book a try (partially because I like the cover). I think he’s got talent. I just didn’t really like this particular manifestation of it.