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Looking for Alaska: A Novel

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Looking for Alaska: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9780525475064
ISBN10: 0525475060
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Excerpt

“So do you really memorize last words?”

She ran up beside me and grabbed my shoulder and pushed me back onto the porch swing.

“Yeah,” I said. And then hesitantly, I added, “You want to quiz me?”

“JFK,” she said.

“That’s obvious,” I answered.

“Oh, is it now?” she asked.

“No. Those were his last words. Someone said, ‘Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,’ and then he said, ‘That’s obvious,’ and then he got shot.”

She laughed. “God, that’s awful. I shouldn’t laugh. But I will,” and then she laughed again. “Okay, Mr. Famous Last Words Boy. I have one for you.” She reached into her overstuffed backpack and pulled out a book. “Gabriel García Márquez. The General in His Labyrinth. Absolutely one of my favorites. It’s about Simón Bolívar.” I didn’t know who Simón Bolívar was, but she didn’t give me time to ask. “It’s a historical novel, so I don’t know if this is true, but in the book, do you know what his last words are? No, you don’t. But I am about to tell you, Señor Parting Remarks.”

And then she lit a cigarette and sucked on it so hard for so long that I thought the entire thing might burn off in one drag. She exhaled and read to me:

“‘He’—that’s Simón Bolívar—‘was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line. The rest was darkness. “Damn it,” he sighed. “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!”’”

I knew great last words when I heard them, and I made a mental note to get ahold of a biography of this Simón Bolívar fellow. Beautiful last words, but I didn’t quite understand. “So what’s the labyrinth?” I asked her.

And now is as good a time as any to say that she was beautiful. In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and sunshine and vanilla, and on that thin-mooned night I could see little more than her silhouette except for when she smoked, when the burning cherry of the cigarette washed her face in pale red light. But even in the dark, I could see her eyes—fierce emeralds. She had the kind of eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor. And not just beautiful, but hot, too, with her breasts straining against her tight tank top, her curved legs swinging back and forth beneath the swing, flip-flops dangling from her electric-blue-painted toes. It was right then, between when I asked about the labyrinth and when she answered me, that I realized the importance of curves, of the thousand places where girls’ bodies ease from one place to another, from arc of the foot to ankle to calf, from calf to hip to waist to breast to neck to ski-slope nose to forehead to shoulder to the concave arch of the back to the butt to the etc. I’d noticed curves before, of course, but I had never quite apprehended their significance.

Her mouth close enough to me that I could feel her breath warmer than the air, she said, “That’s the mystery, isn’t it? Is the labyrinth living or dying? Which is he trying to escape—the world or the end of it?” I waited for her to keep talking, but after a while it became obvious she wanted an answer.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I said finally. “Have you really read all those books in your room?”

She laughed. “Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ’em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read. But there is so much to do: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on. I’ll have more time for reading when I’m old and boring.”

She told me that I reminded her of the Colonel when he came to Culver Creek. They were freshmen together, she said, both scholarship kids with, as she put it, “a shared interest in booze and mischief.” The phrase booze and mischief left me worrying I’d stumbled into what my mother referred to as “the wrong crowd,” but for the wrong crowd, they both seemed awfully smart. As she lit a new cigarette off the butt of her previous one, she told me that the Colonel was smart but hadn’t done much living when he got to the Creek.

“I got rid of that problem quickly.” She smiled. “By November, I’d gotten him his first girlfriend, a perfectly nice non–Weekday Warrior named Janice. He dumped her after a month because she was too rich for his poverty-soaked blood, but whatever. We pulled our first prank that year—we filled Classroom Four with a thin layer of marbles. We’ve progressed some since then, of course.” She laughed. So Chip became the Colonel—the military-style planner of their pranks, and Alaska was ever Alaska, the larger-than-life creative force behind them.

“You’re smart like him,” she said. “Quieter, though. And cuter, but I didn’t even just say that, because I love my boyfriend.”

“Yeah, you’re not bad either,” I said, overwhelmed by her compliment. “But I didn’t just say that, because I love my girlfriend. Oh, wait. Right. I don’t have one.”

She laughed. “Yeah, don’t worry, Pudge. If there’s one thing I can get you, it’s a girlfriend. Let’s make a deal: You figure out what the labyrinth is and how to get out of it, and I’ll get you laid.”

“Deal.” We shook on it.

Later, I walked toward the dorm circle beside Alaska. The cicadas hummed their one-note song, just as they had at home in Florida. She turned to me as we made our way through the darkness and said, “When you’re walking at night, do you ever get creeped out and even though it’s silly and embarrassing you just want to run home?”

It seemed too secret and personal to admit to a virtual stranger, but I told her, “Yeah, totally.”

For a moment, she was quiet. Then she grabbed my hand, whispered, “Run run run run run,” and took off, pulling me behind her.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

joshua.brems, January 11, 2010 (view all comments by joshua.brems)
Having spent many of my early years dealing with heartache, I found this book to be incredibly moving and I really connected with many of Alaska's thoughts. This book has quite literally changed my outlook on life.

Green does an amazing job of embodying thoughts and emotions that we all struggle with at some point in our lives while coupling it with an enthralling plot worthy of endless praise. This book is OUTSTANDING. It is one of a select few "go-to" books that I simply must pick up and reread once in a while, and I will forever hold a special place in my heart.
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(12 of 20 readers found this comment helpful)
evanessense949, January 8, 2007 (view all comments by evanessense949)
I think that this book is great!
As a teen i can really relate to the most obvious problems in this book and the not-so obvious problems.
its a fantastic way to look at the world by another persons prespective.
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(16 of 24 readers found this comment helpful)
MADDI--x, August 4, 2006 (view all comments by MADDI--x)
A great book, that leaves you wanting more
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(20 of 44 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780525475064
Author:
Green, John
Publisher:
Dutton Books
Author:
Asher, Jay
Author:
Mackler, Carolyn
Subject:
Children's 12-Up - Fiction - General
Subject:
Social Situations - Death & Dying
Subject:
Schools
Subject:
Social Situations - Dating & Sex
Subject:
School & Education
Subject:
Death
Subject:
Social Issues - General
Subject:
Social Issues - Death & Dying
Subject:
Social Issues - Dating & Sex
Subject:
Situations / Dating & Sex
Subject:
Children s Young Adult-Social Issue Fiction-General
Subject:
Children s Young Adult-Social Issue Fiction
Subject:
Situations / Adolescence
Subject:
Situations / Death & Dying
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20050331
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
None
Pages:
160
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
13-17

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Related Subjects

Children's » Awards » Michael L. Printz Award Winners
Children's » Featured Titles
Children's » General
Children's » Sale Books
Children's » Situations » General
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Death and Dying
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Friendship
Young Adult » General

Looking for Alaska: A Novel New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$18.99 In Stock
Product details 160 pages Dutton Books - English 9780525475064 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

For his junior year, Miles makes the bold decision to transfer to Culver Creek boarding school. This leap of faith opens opportunities for new journeys in friendship, romance, personal philosophy, and mischief. Green's pitch-perfect narrative explores the unknown — and the unknowable — in a thoughtful, profound, and moving manner. An intelligent, intense coming-of-age story from a talented new author.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This ambitious first novel introduces 16-year-old Miles Halter, whose hobby is memorizing famous people's last words. When he chucks his boring existence in Florida to begin this chronicle of his first year at an Alabama boarding school, he recalls the poet Rabelais on his deathbed who said, 'I go to seek a Great Perhaps.' Miles's roommate, the 'Colonel,' has an interest in drinking and elaborate pranks — pursuits shared by his best friend, Alaska, a bookworm who is also 'the hottest girl in all of human history.' Alaska has a boyfriend at Vanderbilt, but Miles falls in love with her anyway. Other than her occasional hollow, feminist diatribes, Alaska is mostly male fantasy — a curvy babe who loves sex and can drink guys under the table. Readers may pick up on clues that she is also doomed. Green replaces conventional chapter headings with a foreboding countdown — 'ninety-eight days before,' 'fifty days before' — and Alaska foreshadows her own death twice ('I may die young,' she says, 'but at least I'll die smart'). After Alaska drives drunk and plows into a police car, Miles and the Colonel puzzle over whether or not she killed herself. Theological questions from their religion class add some introspective gloss. But the novel's chief appeal lies in Miles's well-articulated lust and his initial excitement about being on his own for the first time. Readers will only hope that this is not the last word from this promising new author. Ages 14-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Green's dialogue is crisp.... The language and sexual situations are aptly and realistically drawn, but sophisticated in nature."
"Synopsis" by ,
The award-winning, genre-defining debut from #1 bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars

Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

New York Times bestseller

First drink

First prank

First friend

First girl

Last words

Miles "Pudge" Halter is abandoning his safe-okay, boring-life. Fascinated by the last words of famous people, Pudge leaves for boarding school to seek what a dying Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps."

Pudge becomes encircled by friends whose lives are everything but safe and boring. Their nucleus is razor-sharp, sexy, and self-destructive Alaska, who has perfected the arts of pranking and evading school rules. Pudge falls impossibly in love. When tragedy strikes the close-knit group, it is only in coming face-to-face with death that Pudge discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally.

John Green's stunning debut marks the arrival of a stand-out new voice in young adult fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Synopsis" by ,
TIME Magazines #1 Fiction Book of 2012!

The Fault in Our Stars is a love story, one of the most genuine and moving ones in recent American fiction, but its also an existential tragedy of tremendous intelligence and courage and sadness.” —Lev Grossman, TIME Magazine

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazels story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Greens most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

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