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Hulu’s “Looking for Alaska” was Surprisingly Great

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at JCU chapter.

As an English major and literary buff, I feel an obligation to say “the book was better” regarding all media adaptations. I saw a commercial for “Looking for Alaska” and physically rolled my eyes. Another John Green adaptation? Seriously? I thought that “Paper Towns” was a bust compared to “The Fault in Our Stars.” I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan of John Green even though I have read all of his books. I enjoyed them in high school, but now after years of getting beat over the head with classic literature, I think Green’s novels are average. I turned on “Looking for Alaska” out of boredom, expecting to hate it. After just finishing the series, the only thing I hate about “Looking for Alaska” was how much I loved it.

I went into the show as a cynic which is why I didn’t really fall in love with “Looking for Alaska” until the third episode. It was a struggle because the characters were not how I pictured them, the campus and surrounding areas looked different in my mind, and I typically like reading more than I like television shows. The more I watched, the more invested I became.

“Looking for Alaska” is based in 2005 which is a nostalgic time for me. I was 7 years old and in my prime. Actually seeing some of the old clothing styles, video games, and bulkier phones made feel strangely comforted. While Alaska, a unique and mysterious enigma, typically wore vintage clothes like bell bottoms, the rest of the female characters can be seen in shrugs, low rise jeans, and pleated plaid skirts. Looking at all of the styles I used to look at in Teen Vogue or Seventeen Magazine as a child made me extremely happy. Side note: I feel like the early 2000s are the next style trend after everyone gets burned out of the 90s throwbacks.  

The 8-part series was true to John Green’s original work. Although I am planning to re-read “Looking for Alaska,” from what I can remember, Josh Schwartz’s Hulu adaptation doesn’t stray. The authenticity of the adaptation won over some brownie points.

Usually, I feel like the directors tend to butcher the author’s original purpose with over-dramatic film techniques or by putting their preferences over the art.  Schwartz’s adaptation actually added to the original text. I thought that the camera techniques and editing definitely enhanced what John Green originally wrote. Having visuals of the main chapters and scenes with great actors and editing made the book come alive (cliché but true).

Because the story takes place in 2005, the entire soundtrack has been selected from that era. I was so excited to hear some of my favorite throwback indie and alternative songs. I swoon for The Strokes and Modest Mouse, so hearing some of their songs in contexts other than my Spotify playlist made me happy.

Here are some of my favorite songs that were played:

“All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers

“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” by The Postal Service

“Blue Orchid” by The White Stripes

“Ask Me Anything” by The Strokes

“P.I.M.P” by 50 Cent

“Feel Good Inc” by Gorillaz

“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet

“Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson

“Macarena” by Los Del Rio

“Fix You” by Coldplay

“Such Great Heights” by Iron & Wine

“The World at Large” by Modest Mouse

I don’t want to say too much about the storyline because I have a bad tendency of unintentionally spoiling things. I will say that the characters showed more depth in the show than the book; however, it was also funnier but sadder. I 100% cried several times during the show. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not a big crier. I’m not big on emotions in general really. Give me 8 episodes of “Looking for Alaska” and I will get my entire year’s worth of crying out. I like the *mostly* realness of the story in the sense that life does not have a cut and dry ending. Sometimes you will never know what people’s last words are or why things happen or even how people feel. I think both John Green and Josh Schwartz do a great job of introducing some of life’s unsatisfactory attributes in a teen-friendly manner.