"I'm fine, Mom. I think—if it's okay with you, I think I might stay here for Thanksgiving. A lot of my friends are staying"—lie—"and I have a lot of work to do"—double lie. "I had no idea how hard the classes would be, Mom"—truth. (58before. 24)
Before he left for his Great Perhaps Miles never really lied to his parents, but now he's mixing lies and truth. What has made this okay for him? How does he justify deception in his mind?
"The Colonel and I will work that out. No need to get you into trouble—yet."
"Oh. Okay. Um, I'm gonna go for a cigarette, then."
I left. It wasn't the first time Alaska had left me out of the loop, certainly, but after we'd been together so much over Thanksgiving, it seemed ridiculous to plan the prank with the Colonel but without me. (8before.25-27)
Miles is learning that lying and deception carry a lot of emotional weight, but he also knows that Alaska likes to portray herself as mysterious and unknowable. With her behavior, can he ever really know who Alaska is?
Chip "The Colonel" Martin
As we walked toward the gym parking lot, the Colonel said, "I called her yesterday and asked her to cover for me, and she didn't even ask why. She just said, 'I sure trust you, son,' and hot damn she does." (3before.9)
The Colonel's mom (knowingly? unknowingly?) aides in the fake progress reports scheme. Miles's parents generally trust him. Are the parents in the novel naïve, or do they know that their kids are up to mischief? And if they know their kids are up to mischief, why do they permit it? That is, what role does lying play in developing trust among characters in the novel?
Chip "The Colonel" Martin
"Why didn't you ever tell me?" the Colonel asked, his voice soft.
"It never came up." And then we stopped asking questions. (2before.74-75)
And here it is, Alaska's huge deception: for years she's kept her mother's death from her friends. The question is, what does it say about her ability to trust and her relationships with her friends?
"She got drunk," I told her. "The Colonel and I went to sleep, and I guess she drove off campus." And that became the standard lie. (2after.42)
People lie for different reasons, and Miles and the Colonel lie to others about their role in Alaska's death. So we wonder if they also lie to themselves about the extent to which they were involved in her death.
And I almost said, She buried it in the woods out by the soccer field, but I realized that the Colonel didn't know, that she never took him to the edge of the woods and told him to dig for buried treasure, that she and I had shared that alone, and I kept it for myself like a keepsake, as if sharing the memory might lead to its dissipation. (7after.20)
Miles decides to keep a secret about Alaska. More than the memory, why might he want to share something with Alaska that no one else had? What does this reveal about the extent to which Miles has accepted the lies and deceit that are sometimes part and parcel of friendship?
Chip "The Colonel" Martin
"Do you even remember the person she actually was? Do you remember how she could be a selfish b****? That was part of her, and you used to know it. It's like now you only care about the Alaska you made up." (13after.35)
The Colonel never minces words. He makes Miles (and us as readers) question whether or not Miles has been lying about who Alaska really is to himself and to readers. And we have to think about why Miles only remembers the good stuff about Alaska after her death and forgets her unpredictability and impulsiveness.
He was quiet for a long time, and I looked down at Alaska's last daisy and waited for him to ask what the prank was, and I would have told him, but I just heard him breathe slowly into the phone, and then he said, "I won't even ask. Hmm." He sighed. "Swear to God you'll never tell your mother." (84after.13)
Deception isn't just confined to students at Culver Creek, and Miles asks his dad to play a pretty deceptive role in the Alaska Young Memorial Prank. How do lying and deception differ between the students at the Creek and the adults who lie in the novel? Why do both groups deceive others?
The hardest part about pranking, Alaska told me once, is not being able to confess. But I could confess on her behalf now. And as I slowly made my way out of the gym, I told anyone who would listen, "No. It wasn't us. It was Alaska." (102after.40)
Even when Miles is deceiving others about the memorial prank, in some ways he's telling the truth. The question though, is if other people will believe him or want to believe the deception he and his friends create. How do he and other characters come to terms with deception toward the end of the novel?
For a long time, I was mad at you. The way you cut me out of everything hurt me, and so I kept what I knew to myself. But then even after I wasn't mad anymore, I still didn't say anything, and I don't even really know why. Pudge had that kiss, I guess. And I had this secret. (136after.4)
Like many characters in the novel, Takumi kept a secret from everyone, but he confesses to Miles (Pudge) at the end of the novel. In fact, Miles also confesses several secrets at the end of the novel as well. We have to wonder how much hurt was caused by secrets and deception and whether that pain could have been changed by the truth.