Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult Literature
First Publication: 2005
Setting Place: Culver Creek Boarding School
Protagonist: Miles “Pudge” Halter.
Major Characters: Miles “Pudge” Halter, Alaska Young, Chip Martin, Takumi Hikohito, Lara Buterskaya, Mr. Starnes.
Theme: Friendship, Pursuit of the Great Perhaps, Religion, Expectations vs. Reality, Death, Romance, Money.
Narrator: Miles “Pudge” Halter, First Person (Central Narrator), we get to hear his thoughts on everything from girls to friends, no holds barred.
Miles “Pudge” Halter is the new student at the prestigious Culver Creek Preparatory School in Birmingham, Alabama. Unpopular at his old school, Pudge is nervous about making new friends, but he is immediately taken in by his roommate, Chip “the Colonel” Martin and introduced to his rag-tag group of friends, including Takumi Hikohito, Lara Buterskaya, and the beautiful, mysterious Alaska Young.
The night before school begins, Pudge is taken from his bed in the middle of the night, duct taped like a mummy, and thrown into the school’s lake. He survives and the Colonel promises revenge in the form of pranks against their rivals, the wealthy day students known as the Weekday Warriors. Early on in the semester Pudge is kicked out of his World Religion class for daydreaming and is admonished by his teacher, Dr. Hyde, for not being present in the moment.
As time passes, Pudge grows closer to his new friends. The Colonel is kicked out of every basketball game for jeering too much; Alaska tutors Pudge in pre-calculus; and the group is caught smoking by the dean of students, Mr. Starnes (known as the Eagle), at their favorite hangout spot, the Smoking Hole. An important element to the group’s friendship is trust. Although Takumi reveals Alaska was the one who ratted out her roommate the year before and Pudge is unsure about trusting Alaska, he agrees to stay on campus with her for the Thanksgiving break. The two spend their time snooping through other students’ rooms, watching porn together, and eating Thanksgiving at the Colonel’s house with his mother.
When the students return from Christmas break, the gang plans their ‘pre-prank’ called Barn Night in which Pudge and Takumi set off a series of fireworks to lead the Eagle away from his house while Alaska send progress reports to some of the Weekday Warriors’ houses. To avoid getting caught, the group sleeps at the Smoking Hole where they discuss the best and worst days of their lives and Pudge gets his first kiss from Lara, despite his unrequited love for Alaska.
The return to campus is a triumphant one, with Pudge, Alaska, and the Colonel drinking while playing Truth or Dare. Pudge is dared to make out with Alaska and he complies, fulfilling his dream to be romantic with Alaska. Drunk and exhausted, Pudge and Alaska fall asleep in her room. Alaska awakens in the middle of the night to answer the ringing phone in the hallway. She returns in an extremely distressed state and begs Pudge and the Colonel to set off additional fireworks to distract the Eagle while she drives off campus.
The following morning, it is revealed that Alaska died in a car accident. Shocked by her death, Pudge and the Colonel stop talking to Takumi and Lara while they sort through their own emotions. With so many unanswered questions surrounding her death, Pudge and the Colonel begin an investigation. Reluctantly they allow Takumi to join and Pudge eventually makes amends with Lara, though they no longer date. After interviewing a police officer and Alaska’s boyfriend who had called her that night, Takumi realizes that Alaska remembered it was the day after her mother’s death while she was talking to Jake. Feeling responsible for her mother’s death and distraught by the idea of having forgotten the day, Alaska attempted to drive to the gravesite. It remains unclear whether Alaska’s death was an accident or a suicide. Pudge resolves his feelings for Alaska in his final essay for Dr. Hyde’s class.
To commemorate Alaska’s love of pranks and hatred of the objectification of the female body, the group decides to execute one last prank at Speaker Day. They invite a stripper pretending to be a professor of adolescent sexuality to speak at Speak Day. In the middle of the speech, Lara prompts the speaker to take off his clothes and begin to strip. The Eagle knows it was Pudge and his friends who hired the stripper but finds it to be a fitting way to remember Alaska.
In the end, Pudge is at peace with Alaska’s death, knowing that he will never fully understand her, but that her memory will continue in the people she influenced.
Miles Halter: A junior in high school and the main character and narrator of the novel.
Chip Martin (The Colonel): The Colonel is Miles’ roommate and best friend at Culver Creek.
Alaska Young: Alaska is Miles’ love interest at Culver Creek.
Takumi Hikohito: Takumi is very close with Alaska and good friends with Lara, the Colonel, and Miles.
Mr. Starnes (The Eagle): Mr. Starnes, known as “the Eagle” among students, is the dean of students at Culver Creek.
Dr. Hyde (The Old Man): Dr. Hyde is a very old religion teacher at Culver Creek.
Kevin: Kevin and Longwell Chase cover Miles in duct tape and throw him into the lake at the beginning of the school year. Both are Weekday Warriors.
Lara Buterskaya: Lara is a Romanian student at Culver Creek. She is Miles’ girlfriend for one day and becomes close friends with Takumi after Alaska’s death.
Jake: Jake is Alaska’s boyfriend, who doesn’t go to Culver Creek.
Mrs. Young: Alaska’s mother, who died of an aneurysm in front of Alaska when she was young.
Weekday Warriors: Weekday Warriors are students at Culver Creek who do not board on the weekends.
Dolores Martin: Dolores, the Colonel’s mom.
Maxx: Maxx is the stripper who pretends to be Dr. William Morse at Speaker Day.
Marya: Marya is Alaska’s former roommate.
Paul: Paul is Marya’s boyfriend and was also expelled from Culver Creek.
Sara: Sara is a Weekday Warrior and the Colonel’s girlfriend at the beginning of the novel.
Mr. Halter: Miles’ dad, and an alumnus of Culver Creek.
Mrs. Halter: Miles’ mom, who worries that Miles has no friends in Florida.
Mr. Young: Alaska’s dad. According to Alaska, he blames her for her mother’s death.
Longwell Chase: Along with Kevin, Longwell Chase throws Miles into the lake at the beginning of the school year.
Holly Moser: Holly is a student at Culver Creek
Hank Walston: Hank is the star basketball player at Culver Creek.
Madame O’Malley: Madame O’Malley is the French teacher at Culver Creek.
Maureen: Maureen is the chef at Culver Creek.
Katie: Katie is Lara’s roommate. She knees Miles in the balls.
Miles Halter, a sixteen-year-old with a fascination for last words, begins his scholastic adventure at Culver Creek boarding school in Alabama with an introduction to his roommate Chip “Colonel” Martin, a trailer-bred genius. Chip nicknames the skinny Miles “Pudge” and introduces him to Alaska Young, a beautiful, literate and intellectually gifted teenager with a head full of elaborate pranks. Under the tutelage of his new (and real) friends, Miles learns to drink, smoke, escape punishment, and understand people. A few days following a major, adrenaline-pumping prank, Alaska drives insanely drunk, crashes her car and dies instantly.
Miles and Chip, both grieving for their lost friend, wondering if she committed suicide or was killed accidentally, search for evidence of the reasons behind her death. They also feel guilty because they were the last people to see her alive and did not stop her from driving drunk. From his experiences with this loss, Miles learns valuable lessons about loyalty, friendship, and life.
The novel is divided into two sections: “before” and “after”. Miles’ school year is comprised of exactly 136 days before and after Alaska’s death.
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