John Green’s Looking For Alaska is a young adult novel in which the narrator, Miles “Pudge” Halter, leaves home to enroll at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama. When the novel begins, Miles’s mother is planning a going-away party for him. In spite of his mother’s efforts, only two kids attend the party, both of them “English nerds” who are socially awkward. Miles’s parents still do not really understand why he has asked to study at a boarding school. His father went to Culver Creek Preparatory School when he was a teenager, but Miles is not hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he explains that is has to do with seeking out a “Great Perhaps,” a reference to Francois Rabelais’s dying words. Miles leaves his Florida home and travels to Alabama to attend boarding school.
When he arrives, he is disappointed to learn that there is no air conditioning in the school and the heat is horrendous. However, Miles begins making friends. His first is his roommate, Chip Martin, who is nicknamed “The Colonel.” The Colonel takes in Miles’s skinny build and decides to nickname him “Pudge.” Pudge’s talent is knowing the last words of many famous people. The Colonel is really good at memorizing things, which he immediately demonstrates by listing in alphabetical order the countries whose names start with the letter A. The Colonel is an unusual student at Culver Creek because he comes from a very poor family. He attends only by the grace of his excellent grades, which earn him scholarships. He has Pudge help him move a cheap sofa into their room before they leave to see Alaska Young.
Pudge might not be sure of what he thinks about the Colonel, but he is immediately attracted to Alaska, who is “hot.” She is also humorous, intelligent, and energetic as she explains how one of her friends “honked” her breasts over the summer. She follows this story by mentioning how much she loves her boyfriend, Jake. When she learns that Pudge reads the last words of famous writers and leaders, she shares a quote from Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, The General in His Labyrinth. The general Símon Bolívar’s last words are “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!” Alaska explains that the labyrinth could be interpreted as living or dying. Pudge also meets Takumi Hikohito, who is of Japanese descent and is from Birmingham. Takumi loves eating deep fried food at the school’s cafeteria and is also a talented rapper. For the first time, Pudge seems to have friends, though he is still shy to speak in front of them.
Not everything about Culver Creek is easy for Pudge. The classes are very difficult, though Pudge appreciates his world religions class particularly because the teacher, Dr. Hyde, exclusively lectures. However, the real difficult comes when a group of boys—rich “Weekday Warriors”—haze Pudge. They take him outside in just his underpants, use duct tape to “mummify” him, and throw him into the lake. The normal hazing routine does not involve duct tape, and when Alaska and the Colonel find out, they promise to get revenge. Alaska and the Colonel are talented prank artists, though all pranks must be pulled off without alerting Mr. Starnes, or “The Eagle,” who is constantly on the lookout for illicit behavior that will justify expulsion.
It is not until Thanksgiving break, when only Pudge and Alaska stay behind at school, that they discover the way to get revenge. While sneaking into the rooms of their classmates, Alaska discovers that the Weekday Warriors’ secret obsession is their hair. Pudge and Alaska also go out at night and drink wine while reading Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle by the light of the moon. Alaska explains that life is difficult, in part because she loves her boyfriend but there’s a cute boy right next to her. During the day, she recklessly drives Pudge around the local towns. While searching their classmates’ rooms, they also find pornography. Alaska watches the film with Pudge and explains how every aspect of the...
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