About the Book
Everybody has a talent. Miles Halter’s is knowing the last words of a lot of different people — people like the author Rabelais, whose enigmatic last words “I go to seek a Great Perhaps” inspire the sixteen-year-old to leave his family home in Florida and enroll in Culver Creek, a co-ed boarding school in Alabama.
There he makes a new circle of friends: his roommate Chip, a scholarship student whom everyone calls “The Colonel;” Takumi, a slyly funny Japanese-American rapper; and sweet-spirited, Romanian-born Lara, who has trouble pronouncing the letter “i.” But most importantly he meets Alaska, a beautiful girl who “had eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor.”
Miles quickly falls in love with this reckless, quirky, endlessly intriguing girl. An omnivorous reader, Alaska introduces him to a new set of last words — those of South American liberator Simón Bolivar — that pose an intriguing question, “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” It’s a question that takes on a deeper, more poignant resonance when an unthinkable tragedy invites Miles to examine the meanings of life… and death.
About the Author
John Green is the celebrated author of Printz-medalist, Looking for Alaska, and the Printz Honor Book, An Abundance of Katherines. Both books have been finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, received many starred reviews, and been placed on numerous state award lists. You can visit him online at sparksflyup.com or at nerdfighters.com.
Reprinted with permission from Penguin Books. © 2007
- Discuss the book’s unusual structure. Why do you suppose Green chose this strategy for telling his story? How else might he have structured the same material?
- Miles tells the story in his own first-person voice. How might the book differ if it had been told in Alaska’s voice or the Colonel’s? Or in the voice of an omniscient narrator?
- The Colonel says “Everybody’s got a talent.” Do you?
- Miles’s teacher Dr. Hyde tells him to “be present.” What does this mean?
- John Green worked for a time as a chaplain in a children’s hospital. How do you think that influenced the writing of LOOKING FOR ALASKA?
- What do you think “The Great Perhaps” means?
- And how about Bolivar’s “labyrinth?”
- In the “Some last words on last words” section at the end of the book, Green writes, “I was born into Bolivar’s labyrinth, and so I must believe in the hope of Rabelais’ Great Perhaps.” What do you think he means by this?
- Has this novel changed the way you regard human suffering? And death? 10. One of the characters, Dr. Hyde says, “Everything that comes together falls apart.” Do you think the author agrees? How does he deal with this Zen belief in his novel?
- Alaska loves these two lines from the poet W. C. Auden: “You shall love your crooked neighbor / With your crooked heart.” What do these lines mean to you and why do you think Alaska likes them so much?
- Miles writes, “Teenagers think they are invincible.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Was it necessary for Alaska to die?
- This novel is filled with wonderful characters. Who is your favorite? Why? Do you know any people like these characters?
- Can you imagine Miles and the Colonel as adults? What might they be like? What professions do you suppose they might choose?