Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

How ‘Looking for Alaska’ Perfected the Book-to-Screen Adaptation

When I was thirteen, I thought John Green’s Looking for Alaska was a literary masterpiece. Lines like “I was a drizzle and she was a hurricane,” had me moved to tears. The novel follows Miles, a teenager who memorizes famous people’s last words, through his first year at Culver Creek boarding school. He meets the mysterious Alaska Young, your typical manic-pixie dream girl. She is beautiful and intelligent yet closed off and moody. But the book is about so much more than a love story: it is about Miles finding his “great perhaps” and discovering himself.

When I heard they were turning Looking for Alaska into a mini series for Hulu, I was both excited and nostalgic yet nervous. Would one of my favorite books be turned into television garbage? I had seen so many adaptations of amazing books come out horribly. Yet, this series was one of the best book-to-screen adaptations I had ever seen. It had me moved to tears the same way that the book had. I was experiencing this beloved novel in a new and exciting way. The adaptation is fresh and unique, yet it still retains the charm and wit present in John Green’s writing. Here is what made Hulu’s Looking for Alaska so successful and why it is a must-watch series (don’t worry no spoilers ahead):

The Casting

When it comes to book adaptations, many people have an ideal actor or actress for their character. Yet rather than casting well-known A-list celebrities, Looking For Alaska features a cast of young, talented newcomers. Let’s start with Kristine Froseth who plays Alaska. The casting for this character is integral to the entire show, yet this actress managed to embody Alaska perfectly. She brought out Alaska’s charm and playfulness while also embodying her hidden sadness. Charlie Plummer pays main character Miles and is able to portray his awkwardness and also his vulnerability. Let’s not forget the standout actors of the series: Denny Love and Jay Lee who play the Colonel and Takumi respectively. Colonel and Takumi are Miles’s best friends who offer the series a lot of humor and personality. Yet, when it is time for these actors to get emotional, they nail it completely. This is casting done right. 

The Character Development

The book is only told from Miles’ perspective, so we never get to hear from any of the other characters, including Alaska. To us, she is just the mysterious dream girl. The Hulu adaptation gives Alaska more of a voice and more of a story. We see her as a strong feminist who is also flawed and suffering. We understand why she is hurting and how she struggles to be seen. Her character finally has room to develop and grow. The series also brings more attention to side characters like the Colonel and Takumi. We see why the Colonel hates his rich boarding school classmates and what his life is like at home at his trailer park. We see why he is so critical of others. Even Miles is given a new life in this series. While in the book, he is mostly obsessing over Alaska, in the series we get to see how much his other friends mean to him. 

The Soundtrack

This series has one of the most amazing soundtracks I have ever heard. The music perfectly encapsulates the feelings in the book. From slowed down versions of pop hits to indie tracks, this music medely perfectly captures the feelings of the show. Just as the show is nostalgic, so is the soundtrack. It is filled with early 2000’s hits and slow guitar filled tracks. It is the perfect mix of moody slow jams and nostalgic hits. 

The Plot

Finally, an adapation that actually follows the plot of the book! Not only is the series true to the novel, it also adds scenes that improve the plot rather than take away from it. All of the added plot points enhance the character development and the series. I was happy to see that my favorite moments of the book weren’t taken out, rather they were given a new life. It is clear that there was time and thought put into this series, and Looking For Alaska fans were not dissapointed. The series embraces the nostalgia that most of its viewers felt while watching it. It gave a beloved novel a second life, and I could not be happier with how this series was excuted. 


Emily Chaiet

Northwestern '20

Emily Chaiet is a senior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida studying journalism at Northwestern University. She is also pursuing a minor in sociology and a certificate in integrated marketing communications. In her free time she likes to rewatch the Office on Netflix and go to CycleBar.