Study Guide

Looking for Alaska Writing Style

By John Green

Writing Style

Conversational Contemplation

Green wrote this book for teenagers, and boy does he know teenage-ese. We can't write most of the quotes, because there's a lot of explicit language and illicit references, but here's a sampling of how Green catches the rhythm of conversation:

"Is there always a pre-prank?" I asked.

"No, you idiot," the Colonel said. "If there was always a pre-prank, then the Eagle would expect two pranks. The last time a pre-prank was used—hmm. Oh, right: 1987. […]"

"Your rote memorization is, like, so impressive," I said.

"You guys are like an old married couple." Alaska smiled. "In a creepy way."

"You don't know the half of it," the Colonel said. "You should see this kid try to crawl into bed with me at night."

"Hey!"

"Let's get on subject!" Alaska said.
(8before.9-15)

It's quick banter, and we're not bogged down with dialogue tags. It's fun to read. Because of the nature of Miles as the first-person narrator, most of what we find out about characters is through dialogue and actions, so it's important that Green is able to communicate traits, personality quirks, important events, and emotions through conversation without being too heavy-handed.

In the same way as tone, Green switches style depending on what he wants his characters to communicate to his readers. The faster-paced descriptions and dialogue speed up parts of the book and communicate action, while Miles's contemplative musings, which are often much longer ramblings instead of bursts of dialogue, slow parts the novel:

For she had embodied the Great Perhaps—she had proved to me that it was worth it to leave behind my minor life for grander maybes, and now she was gone and with her my faith in perhaps. (20after.23)

This mellower pace gives us the time we need this time to process Miles's thoughts, and also rejuvenates us for the next fast-paced, dialogue-based exchange.

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