It was a read. Not a good read, though it was an easy read. Probably because it's not very demanding; largely because the only questionable aspects of it aren't largely worth caring about--a.k.a. Alaska herself. But I'm not up for ranting just now. Let's go with the old and simple individual rating review:
Writing - 3 out of 5
Simple, an easy read. Not much demand is made of the reader to pay attention to the language because it's plain enough. There are perhaps one or two moments--three at most--throughout the book where the writing falls into poetic beauty, but for the most part, they swell into the ease of casual writing once again, leaving little to be awed over. There are only a couple of hang-ups in the writing, so for the most part you can get through without catching yourself on grammar or punctuation issues. Otherwise, there's nothing noteworthy about the writing style. It's plain, but readable.
Setting - 3 out of 5
Authentic, normal, everyday. I've been on campuses like that plenty a time before. From concrete walls to shoddy beds, it's second-nature home for the southern region of America at least when it comes to the campuses I've been to. And yes, most of my on-campuses expeditions were in the South. So I do have the experience to back it up. It was believable as a setting. Bravo on that. The rules were also believable. The lack of authority figures besides the Eagle, however, seemed ridiculous. Having been in situations like these, it's hard to believe that the only person who would turn up in the middle of the night--on repeated incidents especially--would be a single, not-quite-youthful man to deal with them. There are other teachers besides just the few mentioned by name, obviously. So why didn't they ever show up to help whenever a ruckus was happening? If you have a reason or explanation for it, John Green, you didn't hint at it enough to get it across to the readers. Setting, in the end, is blah--and that was the point. So decent job on it, minus the fallacies.
Story - 2 out of 5
You did a cute job, in the end, Green. You got teenagers--which teenagers will like--gave them a boundless, boring environment to go "Screw the rules!" in, and then you threw in some... yeah. Supposed-to-be gut wrenching changes. Maybe I'd have cared more if the character that was the catalyst in all this wasn't 2-ply. And perhaps I'd have cared even more if the main character wasn't boring and simple-minded. But that's for the next section. All in all, the story was about teens, in a boarding school, and one girl is an attention-whore, and one boy wants to bang her. Girl suddenly is no longer obtainable, boy mopes about selfishly. Eventually comes to terms with this, moves on. ...not much of a story. There are "cute" little pranks thrown in, bonding time while flipping off the non-existent authority figures, and pretty much... nothing happens. Really, it's a waste of time. This story may bring some people hope, and if it does, then it's good for them. But it's not worth a nickle in my life. I've read it, I've seen what everyone's talking about. ...next book please.
Main Character - 1 of out 5
I don't even care. He was supposedly boring at the beginning of this book. Well he doesn't become "different" by the end of it either. What does he do?! He picks up: 1) drinking and smoking; 2) a streak for breaking the rules because it's "cool" and it's what "everyone does"; 3) drools over girls unabashedly but gets nothing except for a retarded blowjob (no, that's not even spoiler); 4) ...I can't even scrape the bottom of my brain for more things that apparently "change" about this kid. The call him Pudge; his name is Miles. I don't give a rip about him.
He's just like any other teenage boy, in any other semi-lawless school environment. He has no spine, does whatever anyone around him wants to do because he's got no will or brain of his own, and then he mopes about being a prick to his friends whenever they shove the truth in his face. He can't even take the damn reality of the situation when it's presented to him at the supposed "turning point" of the book! He's weak, has no will of his own except for a desire for sex, gives in to peer pressure, and chooses his friends based on who's closest at hand. The kid is like a retarded, ugly puppy. No one wants him, they just drag him along because they feel sorry for him. The Colonel has to stick around to some extent because they're roommates, but I think he legitimately enjoys the kid's company. Takumi doesn't give a rip. Lara was deceived into thinking Miles had a brain of his own, and therefore a desire to actually put effort into a relationship instead of just jacking off about Alaska. And Alaska was toying with him from beginning to end! Face it, kid, you're pathetic and you're boring.
As for those of you who looked at his "pranking" as cool: Requires no brain activity. Requires you to have a body and use it for whatever puppetry purposes the ringleaders need you to fulfill. Nice job on that. I'm done.
Side Characters - 1 out of 5
Lara: Sweet, but only there as an asset. Used by both author and Miles for nothing but supporting role, and to degrade women in general. Blowjob, really? You guys are brainless pigs. She amounted to the things Miles used or wanted to use her body for: sitting in his lap, making out, unexpected blowjob, and a disappointment on the sex. -_- ...makes you want to cut Miles where it don't grow back, doesn't it?
Takumi: About the only character that had a life outside of the bullshit of the book. You can usually tell this is fact because he rarely shows up in the book. As well as being able to see through the bullshit going on in the story and moving on with his own life, Takumi still knows pretty much everything that's going on, but doesn't feel the need to get wrapped up in it. On top of that, he doesn't smoke or drink like a lopsided chimney. I support this!! Best character by far. In the entire book.
The Colonel: I like him. Don't like that he smokes or drinks. Also don't like that he originally kept around a girl that was clearly a prick. But he loses the girl and keeps on trucking. Not many complaints about him. Like his habit of shoving things bluntly in Miles' face. Kid needs that just so he doesn't get the satisfaction of thinking he's getting away with the crap he pulls. Not a big fan of all the pranks. Never one to care much for those things, let alone let myself get involved. But hell, his life. And he loves his momma, and I can absolutely support that. That one part in the book when he talks about buying his mother a big house and driving her up to it, opening the door for her, and handing her the keys: best. moment. in the entire book. He won me completely at that point. Even if he did pull stupid bullshit later again. Nonetheless, he's loyal, sticks to his guns, and is innocent enough. Once he quits with the cigs and the booze, we can talk.
Alaska: Fake. Everything about her screams "fake". From her "I love my boyfriend" to her random moments of belligerent aggression for whatever it is she's supposedly standing up for-- *Shakes head* All feels fake. There's no genuineness to her actions. All we get to see her as is meat through Miles' eyes, and she's made out to be a mystery. Know what? The reason she feels so fake to me is because she's being shown to us, as the readers, through the eyes of a boy who just wants to fuck her. GASP. Maybe THAT'S it! *Dry sarcasm* ...really? You didn't get that feeling throughout the entire book? What was she! Legs, curves, lips, poses, closeness, body. If she wasn't that, she was--does things on impulse, screw the rules because I have DIRT on EVERYONEEE, I'm a sell-out AND a cheat! Plus, she was a whore. Clean cut and straight-shooting: slut.
So she goes byebye from Miles' life halfway through the book. Now what? Nothing. What is there to her? Nothing. Do we have anything to remember her by? Nope. Miles was too busy jacking off to her between the lines to actually learn the first thing about her. He still doesn't care, so why should we? I clearly don't. So let's move on.
The Message Conveyed in this Book - 1 out of 5
John Green, this type of writing may appeal to people who don't know where to look first for a directing sign in this world. Guess what? You're not helping by not holding them to a higher standard. I don't know you personally. My best, most trusted friend, admires you as a person, and I value her judgment and opinions over anyone else's. So although I don't know what you're up to outside of this book, within the book, I am free to judge your work as it is presented to me.
You haven't impressed me.
You took the popular, low route through. You wrote a book that was belligerent and roundabout in an attempt to carry a larger message to the audience. From the insane amounts of people that love your work, or you, or are just blindly following the newest "thing" out in the world again--can't decide which holds more potency--I can see you've made an impact. Good. There's enough of a hopeful, decent and good-hearted messaged in here for me to give it a thumbs up to the desperate, but not to the ones legitimately searching.
As I mentioned previously, in status updates and in comments with friends, I can see the message you're trying to get across. Appreciate it. Absolutely cannot stand the carrier of the message. There's a saying somewhere that says the message is more important than the messenger. That is too general and broad an assumption for me to buy into. The world is full of books. I've seen great messages, and I've seen bad messages. I've seen fantastic messengers, and I've seen shit-for-brains without the right to pen the word "meaning". You're not bad, but you're far from good. You're not terrible, but you really do suck in performance.
If you want to get a message across, don't lower yourself to the standards of the populace.
That's where you failed.
I've heard you've got a ton more books written out there now. Maybe I'll pick them up at some point in the future, because you seem like a smart enough guy for me to give you a second chance or a third, depending on how I see your conveyance improve. But please don't sell yourself short by writing shit. Maybe you like this, and so you want to write it this way. If that's the case, then I have little hope for you. *Raises a hand in dismissal* This is not my path. If millions of others walk it in pursuit of you, that's on your shoulders. As for me, I walk my own path, and I'm not stooping to get to where I'm going.
I sincerely wish you the best--and the best I can wish you is that you improve in your conveyance of the messages you want to send the world. Because I can see that you have something to say. I just want you to make me proud when you say it, not make me sigh and toss your book aside, with the tired comment of, "It's just another book like the rest of them." slipping from my lips, erasing the memory of your existence and the opinion that you might be considered a worthwhile spending of my time.
Do your best. Because if you really have a brain, you can do a heck of a lot better than this mundane drivel.
Final Rating for the Book: 1.8 out of 5 (Rounded up to 2 for generosity.)
Advice on Reading: Don't buy this. It's not worth it. Read it if you want to, but if you're looking for something worthwhile, don't invest in this of all things. It has some semblance of a purpose, but it's carried out haphazardly at best. The writing isn't terrible, but the story is nonexistent and grows old before the halfway point is ever reached. The climax isn't a climax, and the end result is dull. Save your money. Buy some candy or something. It's a better use of your hard-earned cash.