Associate Arts & Culture Editor
After nearly 15 years of being on the shelves, John Green’s first book “Looking for Alaska” has finally made it beyond the pages. This new eight-episode mini-series was released on Hulu on October 18.
While it is Green’s first published book, it is his third to make it onto the screen. His books “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in Our Stars” became movies, giving “Looking for Alaska” a unique take on his novels. Altogether, this new show has about seven hours worth of screen time.
“Looking for Alaska” is mainly told from the perspective of Miles “Pudge” Halter (Charlie Plummer), a transfer student from Florida, searching for meaning of life at a new boarding school in Alabama. Obsessed with last words, Miles goes to Culver Creek looking for his “great perhaps” — the last words of French Renaissance poet Francois Rabelais.
He finds his “great perhaps” in Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth), the troubled, rebellious girl in his class who has a love of booze, cigarettes, and sex. He quickly becomes friends with Chip “The Colonel” Martin (Denny Love), Takumi Hikohito (Jay Lee), and Lara Buterskaya (Sofia Vassilieva), all of who spend much of the show in a prank war with the rich kids of Culver Creek.
The show starts with “Before” and then a changing countdown follows that leaves viewers wonder what exactly “After” entails. The ending is satisfying as viewers see how the characters of “Looking for Alaska” deal with a tragedy that changes the entire school.
Since “Looking for Alaska” has eight episodes, the producer has more flexibility to pay attention to small details from the book, giving more depth to some of the characters.
For example, “The Colonel” has a chip on his shoulder and the series gives a new look into his life. While his race is never specifically mentioned in the book, he is played by a black actor and his character is seen being discriminated against because of his skin color. Along with this, the TV adaption goes deeper into why he has such a deep rooted hatred for the privileged kids at Culver Creek.
Dr. Hyde, the World Religions teacher, is another character that gets more attention due to the longer screen time that the show was given. In the book, readers know next to nothing about Dr. Hyde except that he’s old and will likely die soon because he is missing one lung.
In the television adaptation, Dr. Hyde is a wise, comfort to students and is someone in whom they can confide. He’s also more of a sympathetic character when viewers learn about his past and how he dealt with losing the love of his life at a young age due to the AIDS epidemic. Ron Cephas Jones’s portrayal gives life to this character that had a seemingly dull storyline in the book.
Another advantage to the series is that it deals with some issues in a different manner from the book. Since it was written in 2005, there are some problematic traits in the book. Specifically, the way that Miles views Alaska can be seen as troublesome. He sees her as he wants to see her: a mysterious, moody girl who he hopes can love him back. He doesn’t always see her as an actual person.
The show can do better than this because it can get outside of Miles’s one-sided point of view and see that Alaska is more than just a moody teenager. She is troubled due to tragic things that have happened to her in the past.