“When adults say, "Teenagers think they are invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail."
Miles Halter is in search of a “Great Perhaps”, to quote Francois Rebelais and believes he’ll find it at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama. His goal may seem strange but Miles is far from ordinary. His main hobby is memorizing the last words of famous people.
He’s fortunate enough to room with Chip Martin, otherwise known as “The Colonel” who likewise gifts Miles with the nickname “Pudge” on account that he’s skinny as a rail. Through “The Colonel” he’s soon introduced to Alaska Young, a wild, mysterious, energetic and independent young woman. Miles is instantly hooked but Alaska isn’t interested. She’s dating a college man but intentionally flirts with Miles, driving him to distraction.
While trying to survive the trials of high school, a strict headmaster, an existential theology class and a killer swan, Miles finds himself on the receiving end of hazing. The “Weekend Warriors” are a group of rich preps that go home for the weekend and end up duct taping Miles and throwing him into a lake. An act of revenge by “The Colonel” and his band of misfits elicits an all-out prank-war. Their humourous machinations are soon overshadowed by loss though, as the events of one night lead to a tragic end. Need and desperation drive both Miles and “The Colonel” towards the truth, only to realize that there are things in life that can never be fully explained.
In this debut novel by John Green we are introduced to a bevy of unique characters. Their realistic interactions, mistakes and dialogue makes for a believable read and bring to light the dark undertones present in the life of every teenager. The detail inherent in the characters as well is well thought out. Miles is quirky and constantly quoting last words; “The Colonel” has a stash of vodka hidden in his milk, making for a pretty disgusting combination; Alaska is concerned with labyrinths and has a thing for white flowers.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a coming of age book containing a well-rounded group of teenagers.