Miles Halter reads only biographies because he is fascinated by last words and has memorized those of many famous people. Hoping to find his "great perhaps," he leaves his safe, boring life behind and enrolls in the same boarding school his father attended. His roommate, known as The Colonel, soon dubs Miles "Pudge" and introduces him to his friends Takumi and Alaska (apparently at this school you require a nickname only if your real name isn't unusual.) Under the watchful eye of their Dean, a.k.a. The Eagle, the group bonds over cigarettes, strawberry wine, and an ongoing series of pranks. But it's not all lighthearted fun, and soon Miles and his friends are hit by a shocking blow that leaves them reeling. Their homework takes on new meaning as they struggle to answer the question, "How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?"
I liked the dynamics between Miles and his friends, including his romantic interest Lara. He had an intense crush on Alaska from the moment they met, but she already had a boyfriend so he pursued Lara while still trying to get to know the mysterious and secretive Alaska. He liked Lara but didn't treat her especially well or have much consideration for her feelings, which was pretty believable. The time the friends spent together actually made me a little nostalgic, as their evenings of getting drunk on bad wine and philosophizing reminded me so much of my own formative years. The high school experience John Green created here was so genuine, with all the fun and drama and confusion of real life.
Although I did not love it as much as Green's latest, this was a great novel that I could have benefited from reading rather than listening to. The audio wasn't bad, but my mind wouldn't have strayed so much had I been actually looking at the words. As with other books by Green, there were many fantastic quotes and had I read a print copy, I'm sure I would have dog-eared it beyond recognition. I read this for my library book group, and I really can't wait to hear what everyone else thought of it. I think it will be a great discussion.