Looking for Alaska by John Green

Before

136 days before. I left home in Florida and headed to boarding school in Alabama. My mum wanted a going-away party and decorated the house. I was Miles Cavalry or Miles Halter. Marie Lawson and her boyfriend, Will, came to visit. Only two people showed up. I wasn’t good and fond of small talk. My parents thought I wanted to leave because I was anti-social or that I didn’t like them. ‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’ at the boarding school.

128 days before. The heat in Alabama was unrelenting. There was no air-conditioning in my room in the boarding school. My parents were sad to see me leave. I imagined that others would come up to me and start chatting. I started unpacking and also took a cold shower. The heat was unbearable. I was very short for my age and appeared scrawny. Chip Martin was my roommate. He was a muscular dude. His dad was an alcoholic and his parents were divorced. He could rattle off the names of countries on the world map. Chip liked morbid stuff and I liked to memorize the last words of others. It was his third year at Culver Creek and he was one of the top students. He started setting up the PS2. There were two kinds of kids. The regular boarders and the weekday warriors (the rich kids). Chip wanted to be addressed as Colonel and I was known as Pudge. We came to Alaska’s room. Man, she was hot in a tank top. Justin touched her boob even those she was with Jake already. Colonel wanted me to buy cigarettes from her. Meanwhile, she went to look for Takumi. Mr Starnes (Eagle) was the dean and everyone was scared of him. Colonel admitted that almost every kid got into trouble somehow. When he left, I tried smoking. Alaska came over and we started chatting. She talked about Simon Bolivar and I was impressed. I began to appreciate her curves. She had a life’s library in her room. She taught Chip some pranks in school and he was known as the Colonel because of his planning ability. In a deal, I had to figure out what labyrinth was and she would get me laid.

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? – Alaska

127 days before. Jake was at Vanderbilt on a scholarship. The café only served fried room. I realized that I was starting to like Alaska. I met Takumi in the café today. Marya was supposed to be Alaska’s roommate, but she got kicked out of school. Paul had sex with her and got caught. When I was asleep, I was grabbed by 3 guys, of which one of them was Kevin. They brought me to the beach and tied me up. They taped my mouth shut and told me not to hang out with Colonel. Next, I was flung into the water. I managed to find my way back to shore. I decided to head to Alaska’s room instead. Normally, the boys were supposed to just throw you in the sea without tapping you. Colonel promised that he would deal with those boys.

126 days before. ‘Well, now it’s war’. Those boys also pissed in Colonel’s shoes. It was my first day of classes and it was very tough. I kept noticing Alaska in class. She seemed moody yesterday when I dropped by her room. I managed to identify the bullies in class. Dr Hyde was the teacher who would teach religious traditions. He would explain the meaning of life to us. I started to take religions seriously after the class. Sara was the Colonel’s girlfriend. Alaska later told me I had to be tough.

122 days before. Sara was at my room door. She looked like a bitchy movie star. She was upset at how crumpled Colonel’s shirt was and they decided not to head out that day. Apparently, the boys peed in his shoes because Colonel ratted out Paul and Marya. He was upset and couldn’t believe he was being accused of such a thing.

110 days before. I was getting better at school work. I was ushered out of class by Dr Hyde for daydreaming and not paying attention. Alaska spoke up for me and was also ushered outside. To her, Dr Hyde was an asshole although I thought he was a genius and was smart. She gave me a clover for luck. We came upon an oasis by the creek. Alaska was upset at the way I was treated by Dr Hyde. Takumi was a rapper and a good one at that.

You’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die. – Alaska

109 days before. Meat Loaf was Maureen’s greatest failure. People played basketball in the fall and Colonel wanted me to join. I was bad at sports all my life. Hank was the star basketballer for my school and he was always on weed. We visited the school gym. We had an encounter with Kevin and we built a truce. Colonel led some of the cheers during the game. The opposite coach complained about Colonel. Colonel was thrown out of the game, just like in every game.

108 days before. Dr Hyde wanted me to be present in class.

101 days before. I started feeling cold. We went into class and Alaska gave me a note. I met a girl named Lara and I wrapped my hands around her because Alaska was speeding in the car. We went to McDonalds and we learnt mathematics from her.

100 days before. Her tutoring really helped me and my grades improved. When she was younger, Mary was her name. When I was 7, I chose my own name, Alaska. It meant ‘that which the sea breaks against’. She didn’t want me to kiss her.

You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present. – Alaska

99 days before. We headed to the lake late at night to smoke. The Eagle caught us in the act and we were in trouble. Alaska was philosophical about it all.

Sometimes you lose a battle. But mischief always wins the war. – John Green

98 days before. There were 12 students on the Jury. The Eagle was the Judge. Alaska advised me not to talk at all. Alaska and Colonel had to do 10 hours work cleaning dishes in the cafeteria. Takumi and I got away scot free.

89 days before. Alaska said she found me a girlfriend. The colonel liked metaphors and was reading Moby-Dick. Lara had perky breasts and thought I was cute. Alaska suggested a triple and a half date, where only Takumi would be alone.

87 days before. Jake was a good looking guy and Alaska started kissing him. I wore a green starched shirt. We were all planning to watch the basketball game. I wanted to be Jake as he was kind of charming. Colonel insulted the Beast, one of the opponents on the field. I started running after the Beast stared at us. Soon, I was hit by the basketball. I suffered a mild concussion. Later, I threw up on Lara’s pants. Lara was horrified. Takumi drove me to the hospital. Lara came to visit me at the hospital too, if I remembered correctly. Colonel’s girlfriend left him. He was a little sad after the breakup even though they often quarreled.

84 days before. It was raining now. It kept raining, day after day. I saw Alaska alone in the cafeteria and I went over to talk to her. She was not in the mood for answering questions and left.

76 days before. The colonel felt better now. We received the exam topic from Dr Hyde. ‘What is the most important question human beings must answer? Choose your question wisely, and then examine how Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity attempt to answer it.’ Suddenly we saw Alaska running towards us. All her books were ruined by the weekday warriors. She was deeply upset.

67 days before. Takumi brought me a snack. I went with him on a walk now. We headed to the smoking hole to smoke. Alaska ratted out Marya. It turned out that she was not very loyal and I was surprised. Colonel didn’t know about it yet. Colonel and Alaska were probably planning for their next major prank and I was warned.

58 days before. Alaska started talking to me while she was playing video games. She was really unpredictable. Now, she was on my bed and really close to me. Jake didn’t want her in Nashville. She had a prank list to show me. It turned out to be a list on why I should stay here for Thanksgiving. However, I needed to convince my parents. I got my parent’s blessings to stay on campus. I couldn’t believe I ditched my parents for a girl with a boyfriend. Now, I tossed pebbles into the river. Now, I felt homesick and miserable. I would indeed be spending Thanksgiving with her.

52 days before. Colonel’s mum came and picked him up. The campus was now very quiet. Alaska ordered me to dig on the ground and soon we found a bottle of pink wine. The Eagle wasn’t on alert during this break. I started drinking on campus. She read Cat’s Cradle to me. Now, she placed her hand on my leg. She started talking about the labyrinth. Suffering was universal.

The labyrinth was suffering. Doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That’s the problem. Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of the labyrinth of suffering? – Alaska

51 days before. It would be 7 days before everyone else got back. We ventured to the weekday warrior rooms. They looked their money and hair. They were all macho assholes who were concerned about their looks only. We wanted to prank their scalp. She thought about acquiring industrial strength blue dye.

49 days before. She wanted to go porn hunting. We made our way to the dorms. She pulled out the King James Bible. We found many porn magazines among the mattresses. We watched the porn movie. I didn’t have the courage to tell her that I wanted to sleep with her. In some ways, she seemed too good for me.

47 days before. ‘Nights falls fast. Today is in the past.’ She tossed a book at me. It was a poem from Edna St. Vincent Millay. She was Alaska’s hero. It was about depression. We continued burning candles etc. I saw a small green car in the parking lot. It was Colonel who invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. The house was rather small. The trailer was so small that I couldn’t believe the colonel stayed in there. Alaska helped Dolores with dinner. Dolores was a better cook than Maureen. I wanted to meet Alaska’s family someday too.

46 days before. It was the best thanksgiving food I ever had. Later, we listed down our gratitudes. Alaska admitted that it was her best Thanksgiving in a decade.

44 days before. It was the last day of our vacation. Alaska wanted to flirt so that she could get us more booze. She managed to get us cigarettes and loads of booze. Suddenly I found her crying and her lamenting that she screwed everything up. She was upset about everything, especially ratting on Marya. She didn’t have a home. Now, she was a crazy sullen bitch and I didn’t like her. It was Christmas. I received a nice watch and wallet as presents from dad. My parents felt guilty that they went on holiday during Thanksgiving. My parents were such lovely people. They professed their love for me and I was deeply touched.

8 days before. Alaska walked and sat beside the Colonel on the couch. They were talking about a pre-prank on Kevin and his friends. Puking on Lara made me vulnerable. We would be staying at the barn. I felt like a fool following Alaska around when she didn’t care about me.

4 days before. In my essay, I wrote about why people wanted security.

People, I thought, wanted security. They couldn’t bear the idea of death being a big black nothing, couldn’t bear the thought of their loved ones not existing, and couldn’t even imagine themselves not existing. I finally decided that people believed in an afterlife because they couldn’t bear not to. – Miles Halter

3 days before. The finals were finally over. We walked over to the Eagle’s house. We were planning to visit the Eagle’s house over the weekend. Even Lara was joining us. We were all on sleeping bags. Pre-prank number 1 would be to light a fire under Eagle’s ass. They wanted to heck the computer network and inform Kevin’s families that he failed some of their classes. None of us could screw up or else the plan wouldn’t work. We all had individual itineraries. I stuck with Takumi and we would act as distractions. Takumi wore the fox hat and thought he was invincible from then on. My heart was thumping wildly. After the fuse was lit, we fucking ran out of there. We ran like cheetahs. The firecrackers exploded. We kept running when the Eagle threatened to call the police. There was a slight error in the route and we were too close to the lake. I saw the swan swimming towards us and it made a hell load of noise. The swan bit my ass. We lit nearly 23 strings, of which some were duds. Despite this, we felt invincible. There were cuts on my arms. We finally returned to the barn. We fucked up. Lara inserted industrial dye into Kevin’s and friends’ bottles. Alaska also did her job well. Takumi and Alaska promised to take the fall if they were caught. Hating people took up a lot of energy. The booze felt great that day. The threat of expulsion lent excitement to our lives.

There are a lot of people here like that. You know? Fucking blowup-doll rich kids. – Alaska

2 days before. We spent the next day hiding. We started rapping under guidance from Takumi. We kept drinking and I felt like puking. Alaska suggested we play the game Best Day/Worst Day. I admitted that the best day of my life was today. Lara’s best day was when she visited the zoo with her parents when she was younger. Takumi’s best day was when he lost his virginity. Colonel didn’t believe he experienced his best day yet. It would be when he could buy his mum a house. Takumi started to sip on the wine bottle. Colonel’s worst day was when his dad left after he cheated on his mum. Dad never came back. My worst day was when Tommy pissed on my gym clothes and I was forced to wear them. I had to wear it for the entire day and it was extremely miserable. We all laughed at each others’ pain. I felt like kissing Lara at that very moment. Takumi’s worst day was when his grandma died in a car accident. It was Alaska’s turn now. Her worst day was when her mum died from Aneurysms and Alaska thought she was asleep and didn’t call for help. I sympathized with Alaska. Everything was fucked up. At that moment I felt how powerless she was. We are all going… Her inaction caused her to move into perpetual action. Alaska puked because she was too drunk. I touched Lara. A little later, we started kissing. We continued to make out in the night. She agreed to be my girlfriend. It was a good end to the best day of my life.

There’s your labyrinth of suffering. We are all going. Find your way out of that maze. – Miles Halter

1 Day before. It was time to wake up and go. My head throbbed like crazy. Alaska admitted she was a deeply unhappy person. Takumi puked in the morning also. The fox cannot summit Strawberry Hill. I slept 18 out of 24 hours that day.

The last day. Kevin had blue hair now. He shaved his head so it wouldn’t be so obvious. There was no truce yet to be formed between us. I spent the evening with Lara. Lara wanted to give me a blow job. She wanted to bite me and I immediately rejected such an advance. I couldn’t explain why I liked last words so much. We played truth or dare now. She dared me to hook up with her. I agreed and we started kissing. She felt asleep on my chest instantly. We didn’t have sex. Colonel warned me that I was in trouble and that things wouldn’t go well. She woke up the next day and was in deep regret. She couldn’t believe what she did and wanted to get out immediately. We brought Alaska after and set firecrackers to the Eagle’s house.

After

1 day after. The Eagle came to our room the next morning. We were screwed. Something terrible had happened. We all headed to the gym. Dr Hyde suddenly appeared. Alaska wasn’t there. The Eagle started crying, unexpectedly. Alaska was killed in an accident, according to him. Everyone was stunned and stayed silent. I tried to puke but I couldn’t. I was convinced that she was still alive in the woods. Everyone was all very upset. The Colonel started screaming. The Eagle witnessed the accident. People do not just die, I thought. I would never know her last words. The colonel was very apologetic.

2 days after. I didn’t sleep that night. I told my parents about her death and they comforted me. I went to spoke with Colonel. He didn’t believe that she could be so stupid. The pain wouldn’t go away. Nothing is instant. What does instant death mean? I fantasized of having sex with Alaska. Her funeral would be on Sunday.

4 days after. He walked to Montevallo and back. He kept walking in the cold and turned back when he couldn’t take it. The reason why he did it was because he couldn’t take the dreams. I held the Colonel’s hand as he fell asleep.

6 days after. It was the funeral. There were chartered buses to the event. I cried profusely. The casket was closed and that was that.

7 days after. It was Martin Luther King day. Anger just distracts you from sadness. Colonel and I entered Alaska’s room. Her life’s library were all ruined. We wanted to hide things from her aunt as she would be clearing the place. I wanted the General in His Labyrinth. Although it was soaked, I tried my best to read it. Her death was a mystery.

8 days after. Even the weekday warriors were surprisingly quiet. What happens to us after we die? Dr Hyde pulled out her script. How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? Alaska. Those people whom she didn’t know her all appeared very caring.

9 days after. Colonel came up with a theory. Someone called Alaska moments before she started driving. We were all curious on who called her. Jake also disappeared. Colonel had a plan on investigating her death.

13 days after. We walked to the police department to look for eye witnesses. We spoke to the cop who crashed into Alaska. The strange thing was that Alaska didn’t swerve at all. It could have been an accident. There were tulips in her backseat. Maybe she just wanted to die with white flowers. It might have been suicide to some extent.

14 days after. We researched on reasons why people committed suicide and their warning signs. Alaska’s mum passed away and she was angry and unpredictable at times. Colonel always believed there were answers. It didn’t appear like suicide because it wasn’t planned.

20 days later. The colonel and I had food at the convenience kiosk. He wanted to call Jake. I was pissed as I didn’t want to know about her relationship with Jake. He complained that I didn’t care about her. I flung a chair at the wall and screamed. I wanted to be the last guy she loved. Would I still remember her long after she passed on? I wanted to know her better so that I could remember her better. The colonel wanted to pursue other avenues first.

21 days after. The afterlife mattered a lot to me. I wanted to know where she was now. Takumi also missed her dearly. I also stopped dating Lara and found it difficult for myself to do something like that anymore.

27 days after. We were planning to steal the breathalyzer from Eagle. Takumi found some booze and we were going to talk about Alaska the next day. I managed to distract Eagle and Colonel stole it. He got drunk and wanted to test it. He only hit .16 on the meter and already felt like puking. Suddenly Eagle came into our room. I had to see the jury tomorrow and the Colonel got away scot free. After drinking more booze, the colonel hit .24. He was smashed. I tested his reflexes by making him walk in a straight line. Despite this, Colonel could only see one of me, although he felt really sleepy suddenly.

28 days after. What was the significance of the white tulips? Takumi suggested that Alaska might have wanted to visit her father. Colonel was going to call Jake tomorrow.

29 days after. Takumi didn’t like how stuck up I was at wanting to be the last guy she loved. The eagle was in the room but he didn’t check our shower and we were safe. It was actually the Colonel who knocked on their door. Jake bought the white tulips. Jake and her spoke for 5 minutes when she freaked out. She told him that she’d talked to him later, but not see him. She sounded impulsive that night. We had to figure out what was in her mind when she freaked out.

37 days after. I went into Lara in religious class. I still found it difficult to talk to her.

45 days after. Takumi and I didn’t do well for precalc test. We were still sad sometimes and continued thinking about Alaska. We visited the liquor shop. The lady at the shop had an ugly mole with a strand of white hair growing for it.

46 days after. Finally I decided that I should talk to Lara again. She said that I could have been her friend and not her boyfriend. She forgave me and hugged me. We walked to the lake and started talking about Alaska. It was a good start. Colonel threw a pack of cigarettes in the water for Alaska. I followed suit. We needed more evidence. We were dying in terms of leads and needed some bright idea from somewhere.

51 days after. I wish I could be enlightened over her death and see the truth. Buddha believed in things falling apart. Suffering was caused by desire. Memories would eventually fall apart too. Maybe she just fell apart, that would be the only explanation.

62 days after. I decided to call my parents. My parents met Mrs Forrester at a party. When talking to mum, I saw the drawing of a flower. I think I might have discovered something. She was just doodling flowers before her death and then she freaked out. She looked at the doodle and then remembered something. Now, the question was what she forgot.

69 days after. There would be a playground built in her memory. We wanted to think of an Alaska Young Memorial Prank.

83 days after. The colonel had sketched out an elaborate prank. He explained his plans to everyone. We had to find a stripper too.

84 days after. It was Speaker Day. I needed Dad’s help to disguise as a professor and be the speaker for Speaker Day. He would play Dr. William Morse. We sought Eagle’s approval now. He called my dad and blindly agreed. We were in luck.

102 days after. On the actual day, a guy named Maxx, who was a stripper was the actual speaker. However, on the actual day, Maxx was late. He was articulate and professional and rehearsed the script. I knew I could cover myself if I got caught. Lara wanted him to take off his clothes and commented he was hot. Now, Maxx stripped and showed off his abs and danced to the music. There was a standing ovation for him. Eagle ushered him out of the hall. We pushed the blame to Alaska. It wasn’t us. We glowed in our success. Eagle knew it was us and warned us not to do it again.

114 days after. Summer had returned. Jan 10 was the date she died. Jan 9 was the date her mum took her to the zoo. We predicted that the flowers made her trigger thoughts about her mum and that she wanted to visit her grave. She missed the death anniversary. That cleared things up.

118 days after. We grew closer during our investigation. Colonel wanted to drive in the middle of the night to replicate the feel. I felt her death was pure and it strangely felt a little good. We drove past the exact accident spot and we were still alive.

119 days after. We studied hard for the final exam.

122 days after. The Old Man held classes outside for once. He gave us the question that Alaska wrote. ‘How will you – you personally – ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? Now that you’ve wrestled with three major religious traditions?’ He wanted to know how we would navigate through life in spite knowing about suffering. Straight and fast.

136 days after. I opened the door to my room and noticed a slip of paper. It was from Takumi. He was not staying for graduation. The truth was that he spoke to Alaska moments before she died. She was in the soccer field trying to look for flowers for her mother’s anniversary. She was just so sad. Takumi was sorry that he hadn’t stopped her. His bunk was empty now. I forgave him and realized that forgiveness was essential in the labyrinth. There is no need to pretend the labyrinth didn’t exist. I forgive her and I also know she forgave me for all the dumb things I did. I believe in an afterlife. She was not just matter. Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’.

Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future…If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless. – Miles Halter

I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts…There is a part of her greater than the sum of her knowable parts. And that part has to go somewhere, because it cannot be destroyed. – Miles Halter

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

alaska

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