I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.
—Miles "Pudge" Halter about Alaska.
Looking for Alaska is an award winning young adult novel by John Green. It is a charming Coming of Age Story about the main character, Miles "Pudge" (so called because of his infernal skinniness). Pudge has had it with his boring Florida high school, where he has no friends, and has decided to take a chance on the more prestigious Culver Creek high school in Alabama. There, he picks up a smoking habit, thinks about God, and makes friends — the bossy but jovial Colonel, the dry Takumi, sweet and withdrawn Lara, and the beautiful, dangerous Alaska, for whom Pudge falls quickly and soundly.It's unique for having a two part structure titled "Before" and "After", the "Before" part counting down to the story's climax and the "After" showing the characters reactions.
Arc Words: A quotations from Gabriel García Márquez's The General In His Labyrinth: "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!" And the the final words of Francois Rabelais: "I go to seek a great perhaps".
Berserk Button: Alaska flips her shit when the Weekday Warriors flood her room.
Bittersweet Ending: Alaska dies in a car accident at the novel's climax. The rest of the novel deals with how all the characters deal with this traumatic event. Generally everything looks up towards the end: the cast flawlessly pulls an incredible prank on Alaska's behalf, and Pudge writing a fairly upbeat solution to Alaska's labyrinth question, but the reader gets the sense that the scars still linger.
Dark and Troubled Past: Alaska watched her mother die in front of her, too paralysed with fear to do the one thing she could have done to help by calling an ambulance.
Death by Newbery Medal: This Michael L. Printz Award winning book features a nerdy young teen who goes to a boarding school and meets a beautiful, adventurous girl with green eyes named Alaska. She has issues about her dead mother, so she drinks and smokes a lot and drives a beat up old car with bad brakes. Need I say what happens to her midway through the novel?
Deep-Fried Whatever: The school is in the south, and almost all of the food in the cafeteria is deep-fried.
Including burritos, which are actually "bufriedos".
It's All My Fault: Miles and the Colonel (and Takumi) blame themselves for Alaska's death.
Jerkass: Kevin. Miles could have died being thrown into the lake duct-taped, and the only reason they messed with him is because the Colonel is his room-mate.
Left Fielder: When Lara asks Pudge if he's ever gotten a blowjob. Pudge immediately lampshades this.
Love Triangle: Miles himself is totally aware he's in one with Alaska, himself and Lara. In contrast, he imagines that there's a tortured love triangle between himself, Alaska, and her boyfriend, Jake.
Even after she dies. He calls it "a love triangle with a dead end."
Loving a Shadow: An interesting case, as Miles clearly is infatuated with Alaska, but he himself admits she's right when she points out he only loves the crazy, fun-loving side of her and not her bitchy, out-of-control side. The Colonel also calls Miles out on this after her death, telling him he cares more about his fantasy of Alaska than the real person.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Alaska is a deconstruction of this trope. For one, though Pudge is smitten with her from the start, she is out to have fun and break rules, not to lighten up Pudge's life. Her behavior is also consciously self-destructive, and very dangerous. She even lampshades it when she lists the aspects of her that Miles wants and the ones he doesn't want, pointing out that he wants a "manic pixie" without realising that it's who she is, not a performance for his benefit.
Likewise, the whole cast develops one after Alaska's greatest failure finally kills her.
Nice Hat: Takumi's...fox-head thing. He calls it The Fox.
Not What It Looks Like: Pudge and Colonel would sometimes go into the bathroom together with the shower running to smoke because it's against the rules and the steam supposedly clears the smell. Hilarity Ensues when they're caught.
Shaggy Dog Story: A fully justified one. Miles and the Colonel never learn conclusively whether or not Alaska's crash was a suicide, but the story isn't about that; it's about them learning to move on from her death, and continuing their investigation means they'll never come to terms with their grief.
Green mentioned that he started smoking at about this time, and in later life had a harder time quitting nicotine gum than transitioning from smoking to the gum. Make of that what you will.
Spell My Name with an S: Maxx, the stripper they hire for the prank. He's even called "Max with the two x's" a few times.
Sympathetic Adulterer: Both Alaska and Miles were in relationships when they hooked up shortly before Alaska's death. Miles never admits to Lara that this happened and it is never commented on by anyone.
Unusual Chapter Numbers: All of the chapters count off the days until Alaska dies. The rest of the book count forward from her death.
What the Hell, Hero?: Alaska calls Pudge out because, "Don't you know who you love, Pudge? You love the girl who drinks wine and watches porn with you. You don't love the crazy, sullen bitch."
Lara also gives Pudge one when he completely ignores her after Alaska's death. She is much more forgiving of him than he was expecting, though.
Both Pudge and The Colonel get one from Takumi, for the same reasons as Lara. At least before Takumi admits he also didn't stop Alaska on the night of her death. He leaves Culver Creek before the other two can talk to him about it, though.
Write What You Know: The Culver Creek Preparatory School was closely based on the real life Indian Springs School (Birmingham, Alabama), a boarding school John Green attended. The Bufriedos were real, and they were was even less healthy than the book made them sound.