Washington High School
Cedar Rapids, IA
I clearly remember receiving your novel, Mr. Green. And I remember automatically dismissing it based on the title, which led me to believe it was a book about geography. However, after simply reading the back cover of Looking for Alaska, I remember instantly flipping to the first page, and diving into the rich, beguiling story that describes the search for the truth.
While staring at the blank page of my unwritten letter, wondering how to explain in words the effects your novel has had on me, I realized the conclusion was simple: Looking for Alaska helped make me more mature. When my best friend first gave this book to me to read, I was only in seventh or eighth grade. I didn't know what high school was like, had never heard of anyone actually smoking pot, and none of my friends had even kissed a boy. Whether my parents liked it or not, this book opened my eyes to what activities teenagers actually partake in. I learned that a "blow job" wasn't actually a summer occupation, and that steam from the shower covers up the stench of cigarette smoke. With shameless honesty, I appreciate your presentation of this information to me. Without it, I would have walked into high school an ignorant fool, more innocent and out of place than I already was.
Alaska herself has made a lasting impact on my life. You describe her as being "gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating ... an event unto herself." Alaska is impulsive, independent, and enticing. From the addictive beginning to the mysterious ending, Alaska proves herself to be my favorite character of all time. Despite her self-destructive ways and dismaying departure from the world, I look up to her almost like an older sister. As 1 grew up, Alaska always appeared in the back of my mind, just like an older sister would. After finishing the novel, I remember making a vow with my best friend in which we promised we would both name one of our daughters Alaska after the magical and seductive character you describe in your novel. Looking back now, this seems slightly silly; however, I will always remember the remarkable character who has had an impact on my life.The real reason, however, that your book has stayed on my bookshelf for over four years and has been reread countless times, is that Looking for Alaska dramatically changed my view of the world. When Alaska first began Pudge on the wild hunt for the Great Escape, I also became enthralled with the idea. Your novel describes the world as a labyrinth of pain and suffering. Behind all the partying and pranking your characters take part in throughout this novel, I believe they are each exhibiting their own personal strategies of surviving or in Alaska's case, succumbing to the pain in this world. Looking for Alaska made me realize that the main goal in life should be to find what makes one truly happy, and, through that happiness, to discover the way out of the labyrinth we are all lost in. I believe that, in order to make the great escape, it takes a lifetime of determination and experiences. Although I still have yet to find the way out of my own personal maze, I know I've progressed a lot further since reading your novel, and I thank you for that.
Looking for Alaska was a book that proved to be much more than the typical summer read that eventually collects enough dust until the cover is almost unrecognizable. Rather, it first became an addictive read, then a life lesson, next a household name, and finally the novel I picked as the "book that has made the greatest impact on my life." I thoroughly appreciate the time and effort you put into writing this book. It has greatly affected my life.
Forever on the Search of the Great Escape,