This was one of those novels I picked up on a whim when it was on a bargain rack. It looked interesting and I liked the title. I figured it was worth a shot and if I liked it, the author had another novel out that also looked interesting.
Miles decides to go away to boarding school where he is taken in by the Colonel and learns the ways of living away from home. He also meets the mysterious and beautiful Alaska. As Miles learns to adapt to life away from home, and his new friends, things begin to spiral out of control to one event that will forever alter his life.
It sounded like a cheesy YA novel. It sounded like it was full of sex, drugs and drinking (it is). It sounded like it wasn't really worth anything.
And that is where I was wrong. I was expecting this to be a fluffy novel, one full of funny pranks (which is has), some romance (it has), and a happily ever after for everyone involved (almost).
It ended up being one of the most moving YA novels I have ever read. Green developed his characters so profoundly, I felt like I had lived my high school years right along with them. They were funny, loving, and the people I would want to surround myself with. And when the "After" actually comes, it kicks you right in the stomach.
And, through it all, Green maintains a sense of youth. The characters pulls pranks on their teachers and each other, they cause mayhem and mischief, they complain about school, and they fall in love. They embody teenagers and deal with the issues that almost all teens today deal with.
One other thing I love about this novel is the quirk that Green gives to Miles. Miles likes to memorize the famous last words of people and recite them. Instead of making Miles seem like a weird kid for finding that fascinating, Green makes him normal, giving him something he is passionate about. Now that I have read more of Green's work, this seems to be something he does for all his main characters. And rather than detract from the story, it makes the characters more memorable.
This is one of those books I suggest over and over again to students. It is a showcase of teenage lives, but gives them a big glimpse of the real world and what is actually out there waiting for them.