I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.
Miles, ironically dubbed Pudge by his new boarding school roommate, the Colonel, is a freshman at a small Alabama school, seeking any adventure greater than the bored loneliness of high school and people who never appreciated his quirky love of famous people's last words. When he meets Alaska, the sharp-witted, book-hoarding girl who thinks he’s cute but has a boyfriend, Pudge is challenged to answer an enigmatic question related to Simon Bolivar’s last words about getting out of the Labyrinth of suffering. This question will haunt him the rest of the semester, as he pulls pranks with the Colonel on the dean, smokes his first cigarette, drinks for the first time, tries his first bufriedo, and even gets his first girlfriend. But no one will teach, challenge, or frustrate any of their little group more about trying to understand the labyrinth of life than Alaska, a girl who was allowed to name herself an Inuit word meaning “that which the sea breaks against.”
Looking for Alaska is a wonderful college adventure, filled with first loves, big mistakes, and an unforgettable girl who will break your heart and keep you guessing until the end. Perfect for any John Green fan looking for a tragic-comedy about college life.
Perfect for Fans of
- John Green
- Teen/college romance
- Romantic tragedy
- College fiction/memoirs
- Have you ever been at a point where you were seeking “a Great Perhaps” in your life? When was it for Miles? What do you think that phrase meant to him at the beginning of the book versus the end?
- Is it true that everyone has a talent? What are your unique gifts? Are there any odd ones you’ve seen in person or in a movie that made an impression on you?
- Is the labyrinth living or dying to Miles/ Pudge at the beginning of the book? What about at the end? And what is it for you, or is there one at all?
- Have you ever experienced “the fear and excitement of living in a place where you never know what’s going to happen or when?” Where was it? What made it like that?
- What does it say about Pudge that he hates discussion classes and prefers lecture style? Which did you prefer in school/college? Why?
- Alaska was allowed to choose her own name. Based on its meaning “that which the sea breaks against,” do you think it was an apt name for her? Are there any names that come to mind that might fit her better? What would you have named yourself given the choice?
- Alaska talks about Pudge and others using the future to escape the present. Is this true of him? What was she escaping? So was she truly living in the present either? Why is that something we should aspire to do?
- How would Alaska answer “What is the most important question human beings must answer? Do you think, for most people, it is, “What is the meaning of life?” What would you say is the most important question?
- The passion and the love Alaska had for what she was reading made Pudge enjoy books in a way he never had before. Did you ever have a teacher, a parent, or anyone in your life that became so alive talking about a book, or reading it to you, that you couldn't help but like it?
- Do you agree that Alaska was right, that Bolivar’s last words were about the labyrinth of suffering, not life or death? Is everyone struggling with suffering of some kind, at one point or another?
- The Colonel insisted that the Weekday Warriors loved their hair because they weren’t “smart enough to love something more interesting.” Do you think this could be true of them, or of any of their other possessions? Is it ever true of those of us in privileged, first world countries? What makes that change for some people?
- Alaska loved Auden’s line “You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart.” Do you think Pudge couldn’t understand it because he had never really loved anyone before, or because he didn’t understand the crookedness of his own heart? Why and how does this affect the way we love, and why did that mean so much to Alaska? Do you think she was trying to warn him about herself?
- After they were carrying out "the plan," Pudge says “The Great Perhaps was upon us, and we were invincible.” How does this compare to the line “In that moment, I swear, we were infinite” in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”? Have you ever had a moment like that?
- What were some of the most comical moments in the book for you (Pudge’s first b.a. moment, The Swan)?
- Whose best day/worst day stories did you like best? Why? What are your best and worst days so far?
- Have you ever been so overcome with sorrow or guilt that you just began heaving? Which do you think was more powerful for Miles, the sorrow or guilt? Why?
- Were Pudge and the Colonel just comfort eating with the oatmeal cream pies and excessive bufriedos? Or did either of these foods hold deeper significance, perhaps because of Alaska’s preferences for them? What causes people to look to food as comfort in sorrow or distress?
- Do you think Alaska really meant it when she told Pudge, “To be continued…"? Or did something change for her during the course of her drive?
- Is the hardest part about death the fact that we continue to love that person, present tense, as Miles, Takumi, Chip, and Lara did? If not, what is? What made Alaska's death the hardest on Miles, or was it?
- Do you feel the senior prank was an appropriate one for Alaska? What would you have planned for yours (or theirs), or did you do one with your senior class?
The Recipe: Oatmeal Cream Pie Cupcakes
In the Before, Takumi brought Pudge a snack of oatmeal cream pies,insisting it was nutritious. “You’ve got your oats. You’ve got your meal. You’ve got your cream. It’s a food pyramid.” In the After, on a Sunday, the Colonel and Pudge walked to the convenience store where they “indulged in a well-balanced meal of two oatmeal cream pies apiece. Seven hundred calories. Enough energy to sustain a man for half a day.”
Oatmeal Cream Pie Cupcakes
- 1/2 (1/4 cup) stick salted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp LorAnn marshmallow flavoring oil
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup oat flour, (can be made by using a food processor on rolled oats)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 oatmeal cream pies
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at to room temperature
- 3 tbsp whole milk or 4 tbsp heavy cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp Lorann oil marshmallow flavoring oil, Or 4 oz marshmallow fluff
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
LorAnn Marshmallow Flavoring Oil Needed to make cupcakes and frosting
- Preheat oven to 325° F. In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat softened butter with the sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Drop the speed to low, add the sour cream and milk, and combine for one minute. Then drop the mixer speed to the lowest setting, and slowly add one third of the dry ingredients to the bowl, followed by the vanilla extract and marshmallow oil. Add another third of the dry ingredients, and if you see them sticking to the side of the bowl, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add in the last of the dry ingredients, and increase the speed to medium. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Turn the mixer to high and drop in the two oatmeal cream pies. Combine for one minute, then turn off the mixer.
- Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill each cupcake liner about two-thirds full with batter. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs, not raw batter. Allow the individual cupcakes to cool completely (minimum of ten minutes, preferably fifteen) on a wire rack or cutting board before frosting.
- For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip one stick of softened butter on medium-high speed for one minute. Then drop the speed to low and add one cup of powdered sugar, followed by half of the milk or cream, and the vanilla extract and marshmallow flavoring oil. Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar and the cinnamon, followed by the rest of the milk (or cream), still on low speed. When there is no loose powder left, increase the speed to medium-high for one minute-two minutes, until frosting looks thick and whipped. Frost onto cooled, filled cupcakes. I used an XL round tip for piping. Makes 12-14 cupcakes.
Oatmeal Cream Pie Cupcakes
Rate the Recipe
Alaska mentions “the only real geniuses are artists” and lists a few authors. Some of her recommendations were Yeats, Kurt Vonnegut, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
For a book about another main character who is more of a “quiet listener,” read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
For another fantastic story by John Green about teens and love and the meaning of life as they see it, read The Fault in Our Stars. Other books by John Green include An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Turtles All the Way Down, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Let It Snow:Three Holiday Romances.
For another story about a man who discovers meaning in his life through a woman who challenges him, try The Woman Who Wouldn’t by Gene Wilder.
© 2019 Amanda Lorenzo
Dina AH from United States on November 07, 2019:
Amanda, I have not been very good at keeping up with Hubpages, but I am back! I am so, so thrilled you wrote about this book! In my memory, which is very hazy of details, I think Pudge and the gang were in a boarding high school, not college. But, even then, you capture the beauty of this story within your discussion questions, especially. I think my absolute favorite question was the one where you referenced The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which really does tie in with Looking for Alaska tonally and thematically.
Have you seen the Hulu adaptation of the book? I personally have not (yet)!
Naude Lorenzo on November 07, 2019:
The book looks exiting, and the cup cakes very healthy, I love it. Thanks Amanda.
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on November 06, 2019:
Who doesn't like cupcakes?