WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for John Green’s novel Looking for Alaska. If you have not read this novel and plan on doing so, please don’t read this post!!
Today’s date, January 10, is when Alaska Young died.
Part of me would like to have more closure and be able to say that Alaska Young committed suicide, or was hit by an oncoming vehicle or even it was a complete accident and the only reason her car crashed in the first place was because she was drunk. I’ve read Looking for Alaska several times, and each time I get to the ending I always try to figure out how and why she died. For some reason, though, the pieces never seem to fit together quite right. When I think I have the puzzle all put together, one piece always seems to come loose and fall apart. I start to wonder whether I’m over-analyzing or not analyzing enough and then suddenly the book is over and I’m just as clueless as I was at the very beginning. I think that’s one of the many reasons I keep reading and rereading this book: Alaska Young is an enigma, even in death.
And yet, there is a different part of me that quite likes the mystery of Miss Young. Too often characters in books are cookie-cutter stereotypes, and it’s immensely refreshing to discover a character cannot easily be categorized. Alaska is extremely intelligent and a great student but she smokes and drinks alcohol. She is both snarky and kind, blatantly honest and suspiciously sneaky, overtly confident and heart-achingly insecure. Real life people are multi-dimensional, and Alaska Young is probably as close to multi-dimensional as a fabricated character can get. In a way, it wouldn’t have made sense for there to be a clear reason why Alaska died that day. Nothing about Alaska was simple, including her end.
I’ve always wondered if John Green gave Alaska the last name “Young” for a specific symbolic reason. To me, it fits her perfectly. Her wisdom, intelligence, and philosophies on life are beyond her years and make her sound like an older adult at times. But at the heart of it all she is still a teenage girl, an adolescent fighting her way through high school. She died young and therefore she will always be young in the memories of those who loved her. Personally, I think it’s a very fitting last name.
Alaska Young is but a character in a young adult contemporary fiction novel, yet at the same time she is so much more than that. She is love and loss and a whirlwind of emotions and ideas all mixed together into a beautiful girl. I think that everyone can see at least a part of themselves reflected in Alaska. Maybe that’s the reason why I keep rereading this book.
RIP, Alaska Young.