'Looking For Alaska' Review: A Coming-of-Age Tale Done Right

After spending nearly 15 years in development hell, an adaptation of John Green’s Looking For Alaska has been released on Hulu as an eight part miniseries. The book was first published in 2005 and quickly rose in popularity among young adults. That same year, the film rights were purchased by Paramount Pictures, but the project fizzled and was shelved. Following the enormous success of Green’s book to screen adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, it was brought back to development, only to get shelved once more. Finally, after years of failed attempts to bring Looking For Alaska to the silver screen, Paramount decided the project would be best suited for Hulu. 

The miniseries has brilliantly captured the essence of the book with its overall aesthetic, dialogue, and adjusted point of view. The minor changes in dialogue and plot still channel what readers love about the book, but fix some issues present in it. With the miniseries, the showrunners were able to tell the complete story without sacrificing the heart of the novel that so many fell in love with.

Looking For Alaska tells the story of Miles Halter (Charlie Plummer), aka Pudge, a nerdy high school student obsessed with last words. “I go to seek a great perhaps,” Miles says in the very beginning. He is unsure what his great perhaps is, but he knows it won’t be found in Orlando, Florida, so he heads out for boarding school in Alabama. Upon his arrival at Culver Creek Academy, “The Creek” as students call it, his roommate, Chip “Colonel” Martin (Denny Love), quickly befriends him — bestowing the nickname “Pudge” on him. From there, he is introduced to the Colonel’s friend Takumi (Jay Lee) and the leader of the group, the mysterious Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth). Miles is instantly infatuated with Alaska and her enigmatic presence. 

The rest of the series follows the group as they navigate high school, relationships, get into trouble, and pull elaborate pranks. Miles's feelings for Alaska deepen, but she has a boyfriend and does not reciprocate his feelings. That is, until the second to last episode when they end up making out. However, she hears her phone ring, answers it, and frantically asks for Miles's and Chip’s help to sneak off campus. The following morning their principal, Mr. Starnes, asks all the students to gather in the auditorium. He informs the students that a terrible accident has happened and Alaska has died. Miles, Chip, and Takumi are distraught with the news and are inconsolable at first. 

In the book, the story is told through Miles's point of view, so the reader is trapped inside his head and views the characters and events as he does. Miles's construction of Alaska is completely idealized and warped in the first half of the book. After her death, he realizes that he idealized her and deconstructs the identity he imagined for her. Additionally, the remaining members of the group become obsessed with finding out the details of her death — was it an accident or intentional? 

In the series, the group still embarks on that mission, but it feels less like an obsession and more like an exploration of their grief and coming to terms with the unknown. The series also isn’t told through Miles's point of view, so his romanticized perspective of Alaska is shed before her death. Alaska’s character is humanized early on as a traumatized girl with faults so that the fallout of her death is still chaotic, but not as flawed.

The Hulu adaptation feels truer to the story than the book itself. Every avenue and storyline was explored to its full potential, not sacrificing or drastically changing important moments. The series beautifully depicts the raw, messy fallout of grief in the way it was meant to be portrayed in the book, but ultimately fell short of. 

 

“If people were rain, 

I was a drizzle and 

She was a hurricane”

-Miles Halter, Looking For Alaska

 

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