Looking For Alaska has already been placed on my bookshelf under the tag “Favourite books of all time”. I already called it before I even picked up the book from the library shelf because of how eclectic I had heard John Green wrote. Before writing this post, I was going to be formulaic and simply write an article that entailed both a summary and a review of the book like I had done in previous review articles I posted on the website. However, it is 4 a.m. now and I decided that it doesn’t really matter what I write as the book summary or what exactly I have to hit as points for the review. All I have is the feeling I felt after I read the very last word of the book…and this feeling is an overwhelming sense of I still don’t know what it truly means to seek the great perhaps…is it the finish line or the process? And what exactly is the labyrinth? Is it the chaos of the exterior life or the chaos of the interior state of mind? What is the significance of these two concepts in Looking for Alaska, aswell as amongst the lives of the main characters of the book; Miles, Chip, Alaska, Takunmi and Lara? There are so many questions in my head and all I know is that I want to write everything down. I want to write an article that voices my questions and perhaps answers them…just perhaps.
What exactly is the great perhaps? I have struggled for days to truly understand what it means to seek the great perhaps. Miles introduced this concept in the book after he explained to his parents his reason for moving to Culver Creek. He told his parents his reason for leaving is not out of spite or rebellion but states, “Francois Rabelais. He was a poet. And his last words were ‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’. That’s why I’m going. So I don’t have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps”. So is the great perhaps multiple or singular points in life? What exactly is this big giant question mark of the great perhaps? Is it something only sought out by the living or is the great perhaps the uncertainties that come after death? To be honest, I have no answer. But all I know is that I read that quote and thought that to me, the great perhaps signifies courage. The courage and willingness to do something that the outcome is not known. So, the process of getting to that outcome becomes the great perhaps. For Rabelais that may have been all of the questions he had about events that occur after death, and for Miles it may have been all of the experiences he thought await him in Culver Creek.
Another big concept highlighted in Looking For Alaska is the idea of a labyrinth. Alaska Young quoted a book, The General and His Labyrinth, which documents a fictionalized account of the last days of Simon Bolivar. In this book, it was revealed that Bolivar’s last words were “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!” Although Alaska and Miles already analyzed these famous last words of Bolivar to identify the labyrinth as a state of suffering, but is it suffering that occurs in our chaotic environment or a suffering of the mind? Was the general ready to leave the negativities of the world or was he ready to leave the fear and uncertainties that probably began to cloud his mind as he neared death? All these questions I have no answer to, but I know Green ties it up neatly in a bow on the book’s last page by stating, “I was born into Bolivar’s labyrinth, and so I must believe in the hope of Rabelais’ Great Perhaps”. So, just maybe, the labyrinth is suffering in the world and the great perhaps is a hope for a better future in this chaotic circus of life.
Another interesting aspect of Looking For Alaska is the intellectual wit, as well as the dynamic personalities of the characters. Each character is iconic in their choice of words, and actions. However, it is Miles that astounds me with his memorization of famous last words. So I ask, what is the point? Why memorize famous last words of people, and ignore their great achievements in life? Easy enough, it might just be a quirky habit, but really it might just be an escape…perhaps not knowing when death will occur makes Miles seek potential last words he might speak on his own death bed. Maybe he was unconsciously searching for meaning in those famous last words he memorized…perhaps something that might indicate the arrival of his own death.
Overall, this book is an absolute great read, a fantastic book and definitely a great introduction to Green’s genius work as an author. I found it sometimes erratic but that just made me resonate more with the book because when writers can go to a space where it appears that every page is telling a different story, as opposed to one wholesome book telling the same story, then that’s when true writing is revealed. It takes a genius to make multiple stories seem like one. Whatever space Green goes to when he writes, I know now that I want to go there in my reading and in my writing.