Looking for Alaska

“I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”

Looking for Alaska

Aya Kasim, Staff Writer

Looking for Alaska, a beloved novel by John Green, has finally found its way onto our screens after nearly 14 years. In the structure of an eight-episode Hulu mini-series, readers of the book, and even Alaska initiates, can now more closely experience Miles’ journey in search of the Great Perhaps–a path we must all, with either purposeful or unknowing steps, tread.

This is just one story, meaningful in all forms, reaching out to you now as a series. Will you reach back?

THE REVIEW

The show, as well as the book, depicts all sides of humanity in thought-provoking ways. Not unlike John Green’s other works, the teenage characters in the story are wise beyond their years, but impulsive and unsure. Looking for Alaska investigates life’s greatest mysteries–love, loyalty, societal pressure, defining pasts, and regret–in the form of teenage antics. Just as in life, the show gracefully expresses that there is no good or bad guy, but only humans finding their way, stumbling restlessly all the while.

This wonderful adaptation that stays true to its literary beginnings, allows us to further explore the unanswerable question of “Will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?”

AN ANALYSIS

It seemed like wherever you turned in the months and days leading up to the show’s release, Looking for Alaska readers were growing skeptical about the cast. Readers, as always, feared that the characters they imagined, loved, and connected to while reading would not compare to the new faces on their screen.

“I read the book two years ago and now it is my favorite book,” freshman Sofia Aleman said. “I’m scared they are going to ruin it; it can go really good or really bad.” Now, days after the release, we can say that there was no need to worry. 

The acting, though a bit awkward in the first episode, grew to spellbounding maturity. Sincere and captivating, all actors, in roles big and small, embodied their characters beautifully in all forms. As the readers–now viewers–progress through the show, they lose fear and come to realize that they are in good hands.

When watching an adaptation, one expects to find the same amount of plot, characters, and feel–most times less. But, in the case of this show, viewers are gifted with so much more. Nearly all parts of the novel are included in the eight episodes, with the parts left out replaced gracefully with different scenes that better the plot, grow the characters, and touch your heart even more. The show adds scenes that drive character development up the wazoo! Minor roles in the story are touched incredibly more than the book and provide further depth.

“The plot looks good so far,” junior Abigail Wilson said. “[the show] seems to cover everything.”

One aspect of TV shows that are overlooked unless exceptionally profound is the soundtrack. With Looking for Alaska’s use of music that ranges from the can’t-help-but-jam-along songs of Jet’s “Are You Going to Be my Girl” and 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” to the slow, sweet-moment-savoring songs of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” and Mary Lou Lord’s “You’re Going to Make Me Love You” each scene is made more meaningful to the viewers. The show and its creators do not disregard the power of music, but thrive with it from lyrics to overall melody. 

Another unexpectedly notable detail of the show was its cinematography. Though all else was beautifully executed, it would not have been enough without the uniquely directed scenes that brought everything together. The district camera angles and fast transitions of the light-hearted moments make them all the more enjoyable; the close and intimate shots of those painful times make the crushing of your heart all the more vivid. 

A LOOK BACK

Though most known for his later novel, The Fault in our Stars, Green received his first and only Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature for Looking for Alaska. Not only did Green win the prize, but the hearts of many readers along with it.

Looking for Alaska was Green’s first published book. As just a novice writer and strained by life’s expenses in 2005, Green sold the movie rights of Alaska quickly after its publication. The creation of a film was announced then delayed twice over the span of the last 14 years. Because readers were left waiting for over a decade, the news of an eight-episode show shocked all–including Green whom, supposedly, did not allow himself to fully believe the reality until shortly before the show’s release.

“I was kind of surprised to hear of the show,” junior Abigail Legrande said. “The book came out so long ago.”

One other obstacle Looking for Alaska faced was its banishment and challenged validity in classrooms such as in Sumner County schools in Tennessee and Verona High School in New Jersey. Because of the authentic tone the novel adopts and its unashamed approach to the drug-related and inappropriate mistakes of teenage life, some scenes upset parents and caused the book to be banned altogether.

A FINAL NOTE

For readers, no detail is too small. The Looking for Alaska show considers this when including so much from the book: the early 2000s feel of payphones and baggy fashion, a setting possibly identical to its description, and the striking sight of electric blue nail polish. What the adaptation does is complete a task believed to have been impossible by readers: Invoke a higher level of connection to an old story that now seems brand new.

This one Great Perhaps, this one story, is not a one time thing, but something continuous we experience and share. 

“There go Miles and Alaska, off to experience the adventures I imagined for them.” Green said in his video, Going Home with Alaska and Miles. “It’s their story now, and I can’t wait to see how they tell it.”