This is John Green’s first novel. Based on how I thought his third novel, “Paper Towns,” was stronger than his second novel, “An Abundance of Katherines,” I fully expected this book to come in at the bottom of the pile.
I would compare it with “Paper Towns,” but the books are so different that it’s quite like the cliché apples-to-oranges comparison.
Both books are about discovery of self and of others, but the way by which the characters discover human truths are vastly different.
Our cast of characters are somewhat similar, though. We have our lead male, Miles aka Pudge, a nerdy, spindly sweetheart of a boy who is shown the ropes of cool-hood by our lead female, Alaska Young (who named herself at age 7), and by the lead male’s trusty sidekicks, supporting male No. 1, Chip aka The Colonel, and supporting male No. 2, Takumi. Our supporting female this time is played by Lara, the Romanian with perky boobs.
Before attending boarding school at Culver Creek, Miles had no friends. He had his fascination – the last words of famous people – and his parents. He started Culver Creek and was given a new name (Pudge), a new habit (smoking), and a new social life (with friends).
Pudge falls in both love and lust and then later discovers the consequences of his new, more exciting life.
This book is divided into two parts – the first half counts down to a major event, and the second half counts away from said major event. The tone of the two parts reflect that major event, and while that is great in terms of writing, the first half was more enjoyable as a reader. It isn’t that the second half wasn’t good to read, it’s just that it was more … vanilla.
This would be a great read for teens to help think more about similar experiences with the book’s major event. As the book says, teens are indestructible and therefore react differently to the major event than the adults who would try to help guide them through that event.
It’s raw, emotional and honest. And unfortunately, many of us lose that honesty as we put more time and experience behind us.
(Edited to add:) Up next: “Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?” by Louise Rennison