Nine days after it happens, the Colonel becomes obsessed with discovering the motivations of Alaska, so much so that he becomes increasingly irritating. This forces Miles to make the most mature statement in the book so far. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Looking For Alaska.
nine days after
(Trigger warning for suicide, as it’s sort of inevitable that I and others will have to talk about it at this point.)
I wish the Colonel had kept his theories to himself.
On the one hand, this is pissing me off. Not necessarily John Green’s writing, I mean, but the choices that this character is making. I find it incredibly uncomfortable when anyone attempts to rationalize or justify suicide in a way that frames them as the victim. That doesn’t mean suicide affects only one person, and this is why I don’t think this is really something that’s a problem with John Green. The Colonel and Miles are both immature young men, inexperienced and lacking in scope, and it’s entirely believable that the two of them would start blaming Alaska for their own problems. In a way, that is. Again, it’s difficult ground to cover, and I had to take a second to step away from how personal this is for me. As I said before, I have a very intimate relationship with suicide, so it’s practically impossible for me to be objective about it when it’s ever discussed.
But let’s get down to it; I think it’s important to talk about this stuff, even if it’s uncomfortable. Unrelated to pretty much everything I felt during these chapters, I suddenly wondered what the hell Takumi was up to. It does make sense that the Colonel would try to “figure out” what happened to Alaska, but Takumi would also do something like this. Anyway, I find it strange that he’s not around at all. Isn’t he close to the Colonel?
The Colonel decides to involve Miles in pursuing the idea that because Alaska’s death seems so absurd, there’s an “answer” to it. Let me just say that I have no idea where this is going and I can already tell that this journey is doomed from the start. Presuming to know what a person did and why when they aren’t around to provide their own insight is a problem, and it’s ultimately what causes Miles to snap a couple chapters later. And as awful as this all is, I feel like Green eventually ends up using the text to show us what a terrible, no-good, counterproductive idea this whole thing was.
I admit to being curious about one and only one detail about Alaska concerning her death: I would like to know who called her, and how that upset her so much that she absolutely had to leave. But, like Miles, I know that ultimately it’s futile. It doesn’t make her “less freaking dead,” as he puts it so succinctly. I think that while there’s so pretty problematic shit here, we are seeing Miles mature. Finally. He’s started to accept death and accept what’s happened. Unfortunately, it also appears to be pitting the Colonel and Miles against each other, since they both disagree on whether to go after an information about Alaska’s death. Whichâ€¦well, I’ll get to that in a second.
thirteen days after
I’m torn between thinking this is the most realistic possibility or one of the silliest scenes in the whole novel. Miles and the Colonel walk to a police station, and the Colonel just flat-out demands to talk to the office who saw Alaska die. And the cop just obliges without a second thought. UM WHEN DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN.
Except I have a relative who talks exactly like this cop, and I also know that this is a much, much smaller town. Here in Oakland or over in San Francisco, I’d be laughed out of the station. So I have no idea how to feel about all of this. What the cop tells them seems clear enough: Alaska very smoothly and accurately directed her car into the cop’s car, very much not like someone who was as drunk as she was. He also noticed she had a bouquet of white tulips in the back seat. Which basically convinces the Colonel that Alaska committed suicide. And then that inspires Miles’s first real moment of insight and tact:
“Maybe we should just let her be dead,” I said, frustrated. It seemed to me that nothing we might find out would make anything betterâ€¦
DING DING DING WE HAVE A WINNER. Though this is immediately ruined when both he and the Colonel bring up that familiar and eye-roll-inducing line that people who commit suicide are simply selfish. First of all, what a remarkably selfish thing to say about someone. I mean, you are literally making someone’s pain and torment about yourself! And look, as someone who went through this and was suicidal for years, I can assure you that those of us who do try to kill ourselves spend a whole lot of time thinking about how it will affect others. I can assure you that some of us think about the positives and the negatives and we work through those facts and sometimes the positives genuinely outweigh the negatives. If Alaska really did kill herself, I highly, highly doubt that it was done on a whim to annoy and enrage Miles and the Colonel.
fourteen days after
So I will say I’m glad that Green opens this chapter by showing that people can possibly be suicidal without fitting the accepted narrative of why they are like that. In this case, Alaska doesn’t fit the model that she should have, and it’s a good way to demonstrate that people who are depressed or suicidal don’t fit into neat little categories. Our experiences and our bodies are all so different, so these things manifest in various ways.
And as Miles tries to navigate through this, I also like that he comes to the conclusion that this posthumous interrogation of Alaska’s life is only making him hate her. (That’s sort of a problem in itself, but it’s more a sign of his selfish memory of Alaska than anything else.) What’s the point of all of this if it ruins the memory he has of her? What purpose would that serve? Wouldn’t he rather be happy to have known her at the end of all of this?
Alaska as a ghost who uses the lights in a Waffle House to communicate through Morse Code is pretty funny, though. Also: I never got to eat at a Waffle House before I went vegan. DAMN IT.
I almost told him that Alaska wouldn’t want him to call any woman a bitch, but there was no use fighting with the Colonel.
AHHHH NO PLEASE TELL HIM NEXT TIME. Maybe he’ll actually listen.
twenty days after
Well, shit, this chapter is awkward.
The Colonel and Miles’s disagreement about what to do with the trail of “clues” to what happened to Alaska comes to a head. Miles finally puts his foot down and flips out, telling the Colonel that he has no interest in this pursuit anymore. It won’t help anything, and he certainly doesn’t want to listen to Jake tell them how much he loved Alaska. I think Miles’s point is fantastic, but the Colonel very quickly notices a weakness that he can exploit: Miles still “loves” Alaska. To be fair, he is kind of right about Miles’s uncomfortable love for that girl because he wants to view her only in the way that benefits himself. And then he promptly demonstrates it by using Alaska’s life as some sort of growth meter for his own.
I don’t know that Alaska represents the actual qualifications for being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl herself because Green gives her far more character, story, and motivation than I’m used to in this trope. But holy cow, I can’t ignore the entire section where Miles whines about how much Alaska affected him, how much she “taught” him and how “different” she made him. That is the trope just spelled out for the world to see, and then Miles has the nerve to blame his own spiritual crisis on her. NO THANK YOU.
However, I do think it might be interesting if this is portrayed less as a journey to shape Miles and more of one that shapes up Alaska’s character. That is something I’d like to see more of. Even with the faulty execution of her character at times, I think there’s a great story to be told through her, and I can only hope that the rest of Looking For Alaska can address that.