John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Departures and Our Questioning Nature

There’s so much stuff I could write about from Looking for Alaska – the search for the “Great Perhaps”, drunk driving, self-destructive behaviors in teens – but I choose none of those. I am going to write about our questioning instead. Why? Well, because among all the things John Green’s first novel made me think about it was the one which hit me the hardest.

But, before anything else, a summary, and because I can’t come up with a more concise summary, I will borrow the novel’s back page blurb.

Looking for Alaska

before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

after. Nothing is ever the same.

It’s always like that, isn’t it? It only takes one thing – one person – to change everything else. Then, BOOM! Nothing’s ever the same. Not. Ever. Again. And you’d think by knowing that ever reliable cliché “People come, people go” you’d fare better. Well, here’s a bucket of ice cold water dude. Pour it unto yourself and wake up. Knowing doesn’t make things any easier. It’s just not how the world works.

There’s truth in cliches, after all they won’t be repeated over and over and over again if there weren’t even a pinch of reality in them but I prefer the phrase “People come into and out of your life” over “People come and go”. It is longer, I know, but it’s more truthful.

Alaska jumped into Pudge’s life and changed him.

We all have people come into our lives, some stay while others go. But still I am sure, and I really do believe in this, that no matter what they do – whether they stay or leave – every person we meet changes us. The change may not always be big enough for us to notice but their effect will always be there, an indelible mark on our whole existence.

And we also do the same thing to many people – lives we’ve met and will meet, lives we’ve walked out of and lives we’ve chosen to stick through with.

So, when someone who’ve tremendously changed us leaves it’s all but natural to ask questions. What made them leave? Where did they go?  Who made them leave? Was it you? How could they leave? Why do they have to fucking leave?

Alaska did many things which Pudge, the Colonel and Takumi could and would never understand. She changed them and they’ve changed her, in what way, we’ll never really know.

We ask questions, trying to understand, always looking for an explanation as if the world owes us one. And we could be right, after all, we were changed then discarded like an old, ratty pair of sneakers – we were left behind at a loss and an explanation is the least we could get. But we could also be wrong, maybe we don’t have the right to demand for an explanation in the first place. And what if we don’t like the answers we find? What if our search for answers only lead us to even more questions?

Still we ask because we need to know. We need to understand.

Pudge, the Colonel and Takumi could’ve all done something better for Alaska. Stopped her, maybe? It could’ve changed things, but that’s one more thing we can never be sure of.

But we can only do so much. We’re all simple and complicated at the same time. Sometimes we can no longer tell which is which and we just go around the same circle. It’s okay to ask and try to find answers but we must also know when to stop rationalizing and answering questions and understanding why people did the things they did. We can’t change what’s already been done. It’s just one more thing we must learn to let go of.

We have to forgive the person who left us and also forgive ourselves. Only then will the questions start to stop haunting us.