Saturday, January 03, 2009

Looking for Alaska...random thoughts

My first review of the year. But not the first book I finished, because I actually finished it right before Christmas.

This is my first book for the Dewey's Books Challenge. And such an appropriate start to the challenge it is. The story:
1. I bought this book a while back because of Dewey's review. (Oh my goodness, there are so many, many books I can say that about!)
2. The book ended up buried in the TBR piles as more and more books poured into the house.
3. Nymeth wrote this incredible review, which caused me to dig the book out of the piles and put it on my nightstand. (This is supposed to ensure that I will get to a book soon. However, it doesn't really work.)
4. As Nymeth and I spent many hours sharing our shock and grief during the week following Dewey's death, she suggested it might be a good time for me to read this book. That's where things maybe get a bit too personal, and not appropriate for a book review. But suffice it to say, that Nymeth's suggestion was a very special gift. Because it is a very special book. And it will always remind me of the very special friend we lost when Dewey passed away.

So, what's so special about this book anyway? Where do you even start with a question like that? I think I loved everything about it. I didn't make a "top reads of 2008" list, but if I had, this surely would have made the top 3.

Yes, I now understand what Dewey and Nymeth and so many other people love about John Green. This guy can write! I wish so much he'd been out there writing when I was in my teen years. Because he "gets" teenagers. It is so evident in his writing that he likes teens and he respects teens.

The characters in Looking for Alaska are so authentic. In fact, if I had to choose one word to describe everything about this book, I think "authentic" would be it. But who are these characters, and what is the book even about? The story is told by Miles Halter. A high school kid from Florida. It's not that he's picked on, or singled out, but he doesn't really have any friends either. He decides to head off to the private school in Alabama that his dad once attended. He goes in search of what he calls the "Great Perhaps."

And what he finds is a place to belong. This place is with his new friends, Chip (the Colonel), Takumi, and the irresistible Alaska Young. Some might label them "the wrong crowd," but they are definitely the right crowd for Miles. With these new friends, Miles is able to accept himself, to grow, to discover what's important in life. And to struggle with the unfairness that is a part of living in this world. This is a story of friendship, of finding one's place.

It is hilarious, and it is heartbreaking. It is one very emotional read. And there is so much to this story that I just don't want to mention, because if you haven't read it, you need to discover it all for yourself.

I know I'm simply not talented at the art of book review. And it seems I do the worst job on the books I love the most. So, instead of trying to say any more, I'm just going to leave off with a few of the myriad of passages I marked in this jewel of a book.

I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.

It as not an eventful day. I should have done extraordinary things. I should have sucked the marrow out of life. But on that day, I slept eighteen hours out of a possible twenty-four.

And so we gave up. I'd finally had enough of chasing after a ghost who did not want to be discovered. We'd failed, maybe, but some mysteries aren't meant to be solved. I still did not know her as I wanted to, but I never could. She made it impossible for me.

Before I sign off here, I just want to say thank you to Chris and Robin for hosting the Dewey's Books Challenge. It means so much to so many people.


Dawn said...

I think you are wonderful at writing book reviews. I always enjoy reading what you write! It is always so full of passion!

You have on occasion prompted me to go out and get the books you talk about.

take care,

Chris said...

How dare you say that you're bad at writing book reviews!! Take that back! ;) Seriously Debi, I look forward to your reviews more than anything...I love reading them. You write from the heart which is what I enjoy in a review...I really can't stand technical reviews to be honest with you...I try not to do them myself.

I'm so so glad that you enjoyed this one and yes, I'd put it in my top 3 of the year too if I would've ordered my books. It prob would've been this one, Nation, and The Graveyard Book. It is a perfect book to read right now for the Dewey challenge. It kind of fits this situation perfectly doesn't it. Someone was once such a presence and has now just disappeared.

And you're very very welcome for the challenge. Thank you and everyone else for participating. Personally I just think it's incredible what the turn out has been!

Kailana said...

Okay, that's it. I am buying this book! I have seen it everywhere!

Great review, btw!

Megan said...

Hey, now. Don't be knocking your book reviews. If this book wasn't already on my wish list, it would be now. =) That said, I definitely get how hard it is to write a review of a book that you just loved. For me, it always seems like I just can't possibly say enough to convey just how much I loved the book in question!

Robin said...

What a lovely review, and now I really want to read this book! Thanks!

Nymeth said...

What Chris said! And I really mean it, Debi. You did a fine job explaining why the book means so much to you. Plus you chose some great passages to share.

I know I've been telling you this for weeks, but more and more I want to read it again.

I just noticed that Chris' top 3 of the year is the same as mine. Would I be wrong if I guessed that The Graveyard Book would be on yours too? You know where this is totally should read Nation next :P

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I went and checked out the link. I signed up for the Knit-a-long :)

Stephanie said...

This is one that I have on my list as well!! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I'm "wish listing" it for a birthday present, but I won't hold my breath! I think my family thinks I have too many books already! Don't they know you can never have too many books??

Bookfool said...

Pardon me but BALONEY. You do just fine at book reviews. Sorry for shouting, but don't pick on yourself; you're awesome.

Having said that, I have to get into Green Love mode. Gosh, I love that man. He does respect teens -- you should see his video, "I Am Not A Pornographer" at YouTube. It's amazing. I love it when he says teenagers are perfectly capable of critical thinking and anyone who disagrees can just shut up. Har. What a guy.

Melody said...

I beg to differ, Debi! Who said you don't write the best reviews?!! I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this book! And yes, I need to add this book to my wishlist as well. :)

Debi said...

You all are way too kind! I swear I was not looking to have anyone disagree with me. I just feel weird about the way I write reviews...waaaay more personal than analytical.

Trish said...

I must officially be the last person on the blogosphere who hasn't read anything John Green. I've heard so many glowing things from Nancy, Nymeth and now you that I'm going to have to break down and get something by him.

I have to agree with you that it is difficult to write about the books that you love the most or affected you the most, but you did a wonderful job--definitely sold me on the book!

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one to review, because, you're right, you don't want to give anything away!

Great job!