Saturday, January 10, 2015

Alaska Young and Impacting Books

Today is Alaska Day. I didn't plan on writing a post about Looking for Alaska. But then the words just kind of came out. And here we are. 

I remember the first time I ever read Looking for Alaska

I was sixteen. I was pretty lost.

So much has changed since then, but so much of me has stayed the same.

It was my first John Green book. I had heard about them a lot. Meant to read them for awhile. My friend (who would later become my best friend) told me to read it. That I would love it. She hadn't been wrong yet, so I did. 

I was single then. It was May, 2010. I only mention that first part because it was that month I had my first kiss, my first boyfriend. And one of my most distinct memories about Looking For Alaska was texting him about it as I finished it. I remember trying to get the words out. Trying to tell him how much this little black book meant to me. I don't remember what I said. I do remember thinking it wouldn't do it justice. 

There are books that come along that impact you. Looking for Alaska was one of mine. And it first impacted me in such an unexpected way. Because I wanted it to be something. Pudge wanted escape and change and a new life. And I did too. It took me awhile to realize that wasn't what this book was about. It actually took me reading it a second time to really understand why this book mattered to me. But the first time impacted me cause I felt such loss. I felt like I didn't entirely get it. I sobbed and felt sorrow and hope but I also knew I was missing something. There was something beneath the words I didn't get.  Something that was going over my head. Because Alaska wasn't the person I wanted her to be. The book wasn't what I expected it to be. But that was the whole point, wasn't it? I expected one thing from this book, and got something else entirely.

I read it a second time the next year and that's when it really hit me. Right in the gut. I could relate to this book so much. I don't even know if I can tell you why, exactly. But I just do. I know I'm talking like this book is so profound and beautiful and something equally as pretentious. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that, to me, this book impacted my life. It asked me to look at things differently. It questioned my perspective. I love when books do that.

I reread this book for a third time in 2013. This time, alongside my bestie. We live seven hours away from each other, so our version of a read-along is setting a certain amount of pages and texting each other when we're done. I remember how we both were pretty emotional while reading it. (I was emotional with my EYES, her with her words.) It was one of those books we both just get why the other loves it. Even if neither of us can really express it right.

Just thinking about it now, I have so many stories about this book. Defending it, gushing about it, mostly texting the bestie about it. Working at a bookstore has afforded me lots of opportunities to talk about Looking for Alaska. I even convinced a former co-worker of mine to buy the John Green box set. I remember him coming up to me after reading Looking for Alaska. I remember hearing him talk about how much he loved it. He looked almost shocked by it. It's the greatest feeling for me. Getting people to read books that they end up loving. I'm happy to have been able to do that with Looking for Alaska. 

You know what's kind of funny about the first time I ever read it? I actually knew the ending. Well, not the very end, but those who have read it know what I mean. I accidentally flipped to the back of the book to check how many pages it was and saw a discussion guide with a massive spoiler. It didn't impact my reading of it though. I think it almost made it harder for me cause I knew what was to come. And it wrecked me. I get angry about it sometimes. And sad, a lot. I feel like the characters in this book are so real to me I sometimes find myself wondering what they're doing now. Wonder where they went after I turned the last page.

Anyways, this post got a bit longer than I anticipated. All of this is to say one thing: I love Looking for Alaska. It will forever be one of my favourite books. I will read it over and over again and never tire of it. And Alaska will forever be one of my favourite characters. One who challenged my assumptions. One who broke my heart. One who I think and wonder about even five years later. I will constantly site John Green as someone who has had a huge impact on my life (don't even get me STARTED about Paper Towns. You think this post is long? Seriously. It would be insane) and Alaska, Pudge, and the Colonel as characters who changed my way of thinking. 

I'll end this post how the book ends, with words of hope from my dear Pudge: "Thomas Edison's last words were 'Its very beautiful over there'. I don't where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful."

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)   

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