Looking for Alaska Summary
Miles Halter is tired of his predictable and friendless life (check out the going-away party for him at the beginning of the book), so he decides to attend Culver Creek boarding school in Alabama for his junior year of high school. He tells his parents that he's going to seek a Great Perhaps, that there's something more for him.
And there is. The story is split in two parts: before and after.
Miles meets the Colonel (real name Chip Martin), Takumi, and Alaska Young. The Colonel grew up in a trailer park, Alaska and her dad don't get along (mystery alert), and Takumi is just kind of there for a while. The three take Miles (nicknamed Pudge because he's so skinny) under their wing and introduce him to the social order of campus, mischief-making, smoking cigarettes, and drinking. They have to avoid the Eagle—the aptly-named dean of the school—when they're creating mischief so they don't get brought before a peer jury and appropriately punished.
Miles's favorite class is religious studies, taught by an old man nicknamed… the Old Man. He lectures all the time and makes Miles think about religion, philosophy, and life, and Miles loves it. Alaska doesn't.
After Miles is hazed pretty hard by the Weekday Warriors (students who stay only during the week at the boarding school), his new friends vow to help him return the favor. Miles meets Lara, and goes on a triple date with her, the Colonel and his pseudo-girlfriend Sara, and Alaska and her college-aged boyfriend Jake. The date ends with Miles getting a concussion from a basketball and ralphing on Lara's shoes. Also, the date doesn't really mean anything, because Miles is well on his way to falling in love? lust? some combination? with Alaska.
Time passes and Miles continues his involvement in shenanigans and obsessing about Alaska. He stays on campus for Thanksgiving to try to get with her, but all he gets for his trouble is a sense of homesickness and confusion. Miles, the Colonel, Takumi, Alaska, and Lara pull an epic prank on both the Eagle and the Weekday Warriors that involves blue hair dye and fake progress reports, and during their hideout, all the friends find out that Alaska's mom died of an aneurysm right in front of Alaska when Alaska was eight… which explains a lot about Alaska.
A couple nights later, Miles and the Colonel and Alaska are hanging out in Alaska's room. Both the Colonel and Alaska are drinking to celebrate the epic prank, but Miles isn't. Alaska and Miles make out a little (dream come true moment for Miles), but then Alaska gets a phone call from her boyfriend Jake because it's their eight-month anniversary. Ooh—drama. Then she freaks out and leaves campus in her car. Miles and the Colonel help her go by setting off fireworks on the Eagle's porch.
All students are called to the gym the following morning for an announcement. The Eagle says that Alaska has died in a horrible car crash. Emotional train wreck ensues for all students… but especially for Miles and the Colonel.
The Colonel and Miles are consumed with guilt. They flail about with each other, in classes, and with their other friends because they are caught up in how Alaska died, their culpability, and whether or not she committed suicide.
The two friends try to unravel the mystery: they go to talk to the officer whose car Alaska hit, they steal a Breathalyzer from the Eagle's house to figure out how drunk Alaska actually was, and they talk to Alaska's ex-boyfriend, Jake. In the midst of this, they ignore both Takumi and Lara (she and Miles dated for like, a day). And at the same time, Miles is trying to come to grips with who Alaska was and who he wanted her to be.
Then Miles and the Colonel, with Takumi and Lara (who have forgiven them for their single-minded grief), plan the most epic prank ever seen by Culver Creek Boarding School. It involves a class speaker, a stripper, and a lie told by Miles's father. Dedicated to the memory of Alaska, it is a huge success.
Life marches on. Eventually Miles and the Colonel come to terms with their loss and grief and give up on the mystery of Alaska; then they throw themselves into their studies. The Old Man assigns a final exam essay that asks how each student personally gets out of their own labyrinth of suffering. Miles, finally, has some answers for the question and writes about them in his final exam, thus writing himself out of his own labyrinth of suffering about Alaska.
one hundred thirty-six days before
- Miles decides to leave his parents in Florida to go to Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama (don't worry, he still loves them).
- A pathetic going away party for Miles boasts only two pseudo-guests who Miles would rather not see.
- When asked why he's leaving, Miles tells his parents he's going "to seek a Great Perhaps" (136before.18). These are the last words of the poet Francois Rabelais, and they have stuck with Miles.
- Miles loves people's last words.
one hundred twenty-eight days before
- Miles arrives in Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama, where his dreams of a luxurious dorm room are crushed under white cinder-block walls and the heat.
- Miles's parents leave, but not before reminding Miles not to do drugs, smoke cigarettes, or drink, and not before embarrassing him by blurting out their love for him. He says he won't (but we think he will).
- Miles tries to cool off and imagines his first conversation, during which he will no doubt make a good first impression.
- Miles is less than impressed by the shower that is only three-and-a-half feet high and has low water-pressure.
- Upon exiting the bathroom, Miles meets Chip Martin, his roommate. Chip is short and muscular and reeks of cigarette smoke.
- After his mother drops him off, Chip snags the top bunk, looks at the world map Miles put up, and starts naming countries in alphabetical order.
- Chip's gift is that he memorizes things. Miles's talent is that he knows "a lot of people's last words" (128before.52).
- Like Miles, Chip is a junior; unlike Miles, he's also a scholarship kid; he wanted to go to read long books, and at home he had to keep the books he read short and paperback because his dad hit him with the books (128before.58).
- Chip refuses to be Miles's lifeline into social life and explains that there are two groups—boarders and Weekday Warriors (rich kids who go home on the weekends).
- After pronouncing that Miles will call him The Colonel, Chip renames Miles Pudge because Miles is so skinny.
- The Colonel and Miles go to Alaska's room to get cigarettes (Alaska has a single because the girl who was supposed to room with her was kicked out at the end of last year). Miles thinks Alaska is H-O-T hot.
- In Alaska's room, the Colonel buys some cigarettes, Alaska makes fun of Miles's baggy shorts, and they all agree to meet at the lake in a few minutes.
- At the lake, Miles tries a cigarette but almost throws up.
- The Colonel tells Miles about the Eagle a.k.a. Mr. Starnes a.k.a. the dean of students a.k.a. the man who will bust you for all infractions he catches.
- Miles admits he's scared to get in trouble, but the Colonel promises that trouble is inevitable—the only important rule is not to snitch, even on the rich snots.
- When the Colonel goes to meet his girlfriend, Miles decides to stay on the swing by the lake, trying to smoke a cigarette and hoping Alaska comes along. She does, and they chat about last words and literature, especially Simon Bolivar's last words, "how will I get out of this labyrinth" (128before.120).
- Alaska explains that even though she hasn't read all the books in her room—what she calls her Life's Library—she will, and she also gives some backstory about her and the Colonel.
- Reciprocation alert. Alaska says that Miles is smart like her boyfriend and cuter too, but she loves her boyfriend. If Miles can figure out the labyrinth, she vows to get with Miles.
one hundred twenty-seven days before
- Miles interrogates the Colonel about Alaska as they spend time in their room. According to the Colonel, Alaska is: from a small town; dating a guy at Vanderbilt; and hasn't cheated on her boyfriend.
- The Eagle brings by Miles's class schedule and gives him "the Look of Doom" (127before.3).
- The Colonel enthuses about lunch and asks Miles if he's coming, clearly countermanding the initial statement that he won't be Miles's entry into social life at Culver Creek. Over bufriedos (fried bean burritos) at lunch, Miles meets Takumi.
- The lunch discussion centers around why Alaska's ex-roommate Marya and her boyfriend Paul got kicked out: they were naked in bed together, drunk, and smoking marijuana (all expellable offenses). Rumors have it someone snitched, and Takumi intends to find out.
- In the middle of the night, Miles is grabbed from his bed and led across the soccer field to the lake. Three unknown persons duct-tape his arms to his torso and his legs together so Miles looks "like a silver mummy" (127before.19). Then they tape his mouth and throw him in the lake.
- Miles mermaid-paddles to the shore, loosens his left hand, and rips the duct tape off. He marches to Alaska's room, uncertain of the welcome he'll get from the Colonel, who permitted the hazing to happen.
- Alaska laughs about his swim, so Miles marches back to his own room, annoyed beyond belief, to confront the Colonel.
- The Colonel is surprised to find Miles was taped; he recognizes the danger that Miles could have died and promises to get the hazers back.
- Furious about the prank, Miles mentions going to the Eagle, but the Colonel refuses—remember, no snitching. Oh, and the Colonel explains Alaska's meanness as moodiness.
one hundred twenty-six days before
- When the Colonel finds out that Miles's night-hazers urinated in his shoes, he makes a rather salty declaration of war.
- After a few classes, Miles realizes that what passed for work in his former school isn't nearly enough to do well in the difficult classes at boarding school.
- Before World Religions starts, Takumi and the Colonel mention to Miles that Alaska is upset on his behalf. They ask Miles to mark who hazed him on a makeshift seating chart. Kevin, one of the hazers, walks in and glares at the Colonel; Miles marks him off.
- The Old Man—Dr. Hyde—comes in. He only has one lung, so he moves slowly. In his overview of the class, he asks questions that center around "the most important pursuit in history: the search for meaning" (126before.17).
- Miles, who hates discussion classes, is excited for the Old Man to teach him.
- Throughout the day, Miles gets acquainted with his classes and points out one more person who hazed him: Longwell Chase, who is friends with Sara, the Colonel's girlfriend.
- Sleeping soundly during an afternoon nap, Miles awakens to Alaska crooning (shouting) a Beatles's song directly in his ear. When she degrades Dr. Hyde, Miles defends him and claims he's a genius just to disagree with Alaska.
one hundred twenty-two days before
- The Colonel is freaking out because he has a date with his girlfriend Sara to meet her parents (dun dun dun), his shirt is way too wrinkled, and anything he does to try to iron it fails miserably.
- When Sara arrives to pick him up, the couple start bickering before they even walk out the door. Blah blah blah, Sara's parents will never approve, blah blah, don't antagonize my parents…
- So the Colonel stays to drown his sorrows in sour milk and alcohol.
- The pay phone in the hallway rings and it's Sara. The conversation ends poorly.
- After the Colonel finishes the conversation, he explains to Miles why the extensive hazing and urine in the Colonel's shoes—the Weekday Warriors think that the Colonel ratted Marya (Alaska's ex-roommate) and Paul (Marya's boyfriend) out to the Eagle.
- The Colonel waxes eloquent on his poor relationship with Sara, proposing that they're both bad for each other and that they should break up. Of course, they don't.
one hundred ten days before
- Miles is able to keep up with his classes, but the Old Man catches him daydreaming and kicks him out of class. Ever the friend, Alaska gets herself kicked out with him.
- Alaska says the Old Man can't teach, but Miles defends him again, upset because he was in the wrong and because he has never gotten kicked out of class before.
- Instead of sitting in class, they look for four-leaf clovers instead, and as soon as the bell rings, Alaska, Takumi, and the Colonel take Miles to a bridge over Culver Creek on the edge of campus.
- Under the bridge (this is the Smoking Hole), they discuss who ratted out Marya and Paul. Alaska has no sympathy for them.
- She and Miles pseudo-flirt, Alaska always mentioning her boyfriend every time she compliments Miles.
- When Alaska finishes her cigarette, she explains that she smokes quickly because she smokes "to die" (110before.44).
one hundred nine days before
- Miles and the Colonel attend a basketball game (the team has a losing streak every year but always wins against the deaf-and-blind school), where they put aside their "passionate hatred for the Weekday Warriors" (109before.6).
- As they find seats, the Colonel and Miles confront Kevin, the leader in Miles's hazing. Kevin proposes a truce, but the truce hinges on Miles's knowledge of presidents's last words, so no truce is reached. Go Miles.
- During the game, the Colonel leads the Culver Creek Nothings (yes, that's the name of the team—they have no mascot) in rousing and insulting cheers. You should really go read them yourself.
- Finally, the Colonel upsets the opposing coach so much that he gets kicked out of the game; not to worry, this is his 37th time of being kicked out. He has a reputation to maintain.
one hundred eight days before
- Dr. Hyde asks Miles to stay after class and talks to him about being present both in class when he's in class and outside when he's outside.
one hundred one days before
- The Colonel, Miles, Alaska, Alaska's friend Lara, and a couple other peeps pile into Alaska's car, named Blue Citrus, to go to McDonald's to study for an upcoming precalc test.
- Because of the lack of room in the car, Lara sits on Miles's lap. Woo-woo.
- Alaska mentions again that she may die young, but she'll die smart.
one hundred days before
- In the TV lounge in the dorm, Alaska explains to Miles how she picked her own name.
- Miles leans in to k-i-s-s Alaska, but she is wrapped in her own head. Burn, right?
- Clearly not getting the same vibe as Miles, Alaska talks about how she's not going to imagine the future, she's just going to do it.
- Miles admits she's a mystery to him, and she says, "You never get me. That's the whole point" (100before.15).
ninety-nine days before
- While smoking cigarettes at the lake (not the Smoking Hole), Alaska, Takumi, the Colonel, and Miles are busted by the Eagle, who gives each one his patented Look of Doom.
- The Eagle expects to see them at Jury (a disciplinary hearing) the next day. As he leaves, Alaska tries to buck authority by taking one more drag, but he catches her and almost smiles.
- Alaska describes the encounter as the eternal struggle of good versus naughty (99before.15).
ninety-eight days before
- The Jury is a faculty-selected group of twelve students—three from each high school grade—that hands out punishment for offenses that do not merit expulsion. The Eagle serves as the judge, and he can overturn the students's verdict (but usually doesn't).
- Miles arrives early, Alaska nervously arrives later, and the Colonel and Takumi arrive two minutes before the meeting starts.
- When the four friends face the Jury, the Colonel explains that he and Alaska were smoking by the lake instead of off-campus… a flat-out lie.
- Outside the Jury room, Miles asks what's going on and wonders why he isn't getting in trouble when Alaska and the Colonel have the most to lose.
- The verdict is that Alaska and the Colonel have ten work hours and are "one problem away from a phone call home" (98before.22).
- Relieved that he's not in trouble, Miles is still concerned about the Eagle, who continues to eye Miles like, well, an eagle.
eighty-nine days before
- Alaska pronounces that she has found a girlfriend for Miles and that the lucky girl is Lara, the student who sat on Miles's lap in Alaska's car. The Colonel makes some pretty inappropriate comments that Alaska takes offense at.
- Not only that, but Alaska has planned a triple-and-a-half date for Friday—she and her boyfriend, Miles and Lara, the Colonel and his girlfriend (who don't get along very well, as the Colonel states), and Takumi, who sort of just tags along.
eighty-seven days before
- The triple-and-a-half date starts off in Alaska's room, where everyone meets each other and Miles tries to hate—but can't—Alaska's boyfriend Jake.
- After the group troops to the gym to watch a basketball game, classic seating battles take place: should Miles sit next to Lara or Alaska? Alaska wins this round, mostly by convincing him that sitting next to her will help him get with Lara.
- Just like at the last game, the Colonel heckles the opponent's players throughout, especially one nicknamed the Beast.
- After one particularly snide remark that the entire crowd laughs at, the Beast marches over to the sideline and throws the ball in the direction of the triple threat… er, date.
- Miles gets a basketball to his face because he didn't run like Takumi and the Colonel. "I am concussed" (87before.29), he states. Then he pukes on Lara's pants. Smooth, Miles. In his defense, he really is concussed, though.
- One nurse's examination and one trip to the hospital later, Miles returns to his dorm room and spends the rest of the evening sleeping.
- The Colonel awakens Miles at 3:00AM to announce that Sara accused him of liking Alaska and then dumped his patootie for being too casual in the face of her accusation.
- Even though the Colonel is out of a terrible relationship (c'mon, we all recognized it for what it was), he's still sad about it because he still cares about Sara.
- Meanwhile, Miles can only listen in a hazy daze because he is still concussed.
eighty-four days before
- It rains. A lot.
- By day three of the rain, students gravitate toward indoor activities: reading, playing video games, sitting around.
- Because their date was such a spectacular disaster, Miles decides it's better to avoid Lara.
- Miles sees Alaska only in class, but he catches her in the cafeteria—he tries to make small talk, but she decides to condescend to him.
- Understandingly, Miles is a little tired of the drama with her.
seventy-six days before
- Right before religion class, the Colonel mentions that he's had an epiphany about his failed relationship, and it's that his ex-girlfriend Sara is a complete and total jerk.
- Dr. Hyde hobbles in and, after a lecture on Jesus, assigns the final exam question—a question worth fifty percent of the class grade.
- The essay question is this: "What is the most important question human beings must answer? Choose your question wisely, and then examine how Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity attempt to answer it"(76before.11).
- Jogging home through the rain, Miles tells the Colonel that his question will be "what happens to us when we die" (76before.13).
- Alaska, who has skipped class, runs over to Miles and the Colonel and explains that her room has flooded; someone connected a plastic tube from the gutter to her window, and now her whole room is sopping.
- She thinks the Weekday Warriors are behind it. Duh.
sixty-seven days before
- Miles is relaxing on newly dried grass and pondering American Civil War generals's last words when Takumi brings him a snack.
- On a smoking walk in the woods, Takumi tells Miles that it was Alaska who ratted out her former roommate, Marya, and her roommate's boyfriend, Paul. Takumi figured it out through some super-sleuthing. And also because Alaska admitted it to him.
- Oh—and the Colonel doesn't know it was Alaska who spilled the beans about Marya and Paul.
- Takumi explains that he told Miles because he expects Miles, as a friend, to stick with his friends if he gets caught doing anything… like a prank in response to Alaska's room getting flooded.
- Finally Miles understands why Alaska took the blame for smoking during the day at the Jury: she wanted to show her friends that they could trust her.
fifty-eight days before
- Miles awakens to Alaska playing video games in his room. She admits to him that she ratted out Marya.
- Miles can't decide if he trusts Alaska, and he's also a little tired of her unpredictable nature… none of which stops him from crushing on her hard core.
- Later and with the help of a few written notes, Alaska tries to get Miles to stay on campus for Thanksgiving.
- Desperate to have some one-on-one time with Alaska, Miles calls home and tells a mix of lies and truths to his mom, thus garnering permission to stay on campus during Thanksgiving break.
- The Colonel comes into their room and tells Miles that Sara said she still loved him (the Colonel). And also that Miles shouldn't stay for Thanksgiving just because he wants to make out with Alaska (which he does) because Jake is the only thing that's keeping her anything close to normal.
- Miles has second thoughts and calls his parents back, but they have already bought tickets to England over the holidays to celebrate a second honeymoon.
- A little (okay a lot) homesick, Miles stumbles on a solitary walk, feeling like his parents ditched him even though he's quite aware that he ditched them first.
- Alaska finds Miles at the Smoking Hole, gives him a hug, and says that Thanksgiving will be fine. When he asks why she doesn't go home, she says it's because her home is full of ghosts.
fifty-two days before
- The day everyone leaves, Alaska and Miles spend time in the soccer field, reading a Kurt Vonnegut book and sharing some wine Alaska buried in the soccer field. Miles is so tempted to tell Alaska that he loves her.
- But before he can blurt out the words, Alaska states that the labyrinth (see Chapter 2) is not life or death, it's suffering and pain.
- And Alaska muses that suffering is something the religions they've studied in Hyde's class have in common. In fact, how do we get even out of the labyrinth of suffering?
- Meanwhile, Miles (ever the adolescent boy) tries to kiss Alaska, but she stops him and tells him not to ruin it.
fifty-one days before
- Alaska wakes Miles at the ungodly hour of 7:00AM-ish and marches him to one of the wings of Weekday Warrior dorm rooms.
- Then she opens an unlocked window from the outside and crawls inside the room. Miles, predictably, follows.
- Much like Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, Alaska asks Miles to predict what the Weekday Warriors covet, or love. And after looking at the umpteenth hair product for men, Miles correctly says that they love their hair.
- Later in the day, Alaska wonders how she might get her paws on really strong blue dye. Hello there, next prank.
forty-nine days before
- After writing more of his religion paper, Miles visits Alaska, and she asks what W.H. Auden's last words were. When Miles can't produce, she quotes a line "you shall love your crooked neighbor / with all your crooked heart" from Auden's poem "As I Walked Out One Evening."
- Then the two of them go hunting for secrets in other students's rooms. Miles finds out that one student has hemorrhoids, one student collects Cabbage Patch kids, and one student draws herself nude for fun.
- Alaska also seeks some more, um, illicit collections in which women are often objectified. She finds many magazines, but the jackpot is a movie that Alaska and Miles watch to determine the plausibility and unrealistic nature of the plot and action.
- Predictably, Miles becomes turned on during the movie while Alaska berates its objectification of women. When it finishes, Alaska lies down to sleep.
- And Miles aches to sleep with her, just sleep and hold her innocently. Somewhat accurately, he describes her as "a hurricane" whereas he is only "drizzle" (49before.32).
forty-seven days before
- The Colonel unexpectedly shows up and invites Alaska and Miles to his house for Thanksgiving. Since the Eagle gives permission, the three friends speed away in the Colonel's car.
- After a tour of the trailer and the trailer park in which the Colonel and his mom live, the Colonel explains that's why he dislikes rich people so much.
- Miles realizes that the Colonel isn't embarrassed of his mom, just worried that Miles and Alaska will behave in a condescending way—which they, of course, do not.
forty-six days before
- On Thanksgiving, the Colonel's mom makes the whole works, and each guest gets a glass of wine while they list what they are thankful for.
- Once the meal has wrapped up, Alaska and Miles head back to campus.
forty-four days before
- Alaska and Miles go to a liquor store to try to get alcohol. Though Alaska claims her fake ID is not great, she seems to flirt her way into getting cigarettes, wine, and vodka just fine.
- Her mood swings abruptly later that day. As Miles is finishing his English essay, Alaska comes in to his room sobbing—she wonders why she "screws everything up" (44before.16).
- Miles tries to talk to her, and she explains that she told the Colonel about ratting on Marya and Paul in the car. Predictably, the Colonel responded by flipping out (big surprise) and telling her that he can't trust her; he does take the whole honor and loyalty thing pretty seriously.
- When Miles asks if she ratted out Marya and Paul because she was afraid of going home, Alaska mentions that, "There's no home" (44before.24).
- Alaska is convinced she ruins everything, and Miles loses track of what she's talking about. He's confused. Alaska is a confusing person. We agree.
- Everyone at the boarding school goes home for Christmas.
- Miles gets a watch and a wallet, but mostly he studies. Precalc and bio are the bane of his existence, and like many students, he's studying partially to learn but also to get into college.
- Feeling a little guilty about leaving him at the Creek at Thanksgiving, Miles's parents are a bit more emotional when he's there—his mom cries during every family dinner and teaches him to make dishes he doesn't like, and his dad talks with him about books.
- But when Miles leaves and his parents say they're proud of him and love him, he is thankful that he has a family. (Especially when compared to Alaska.)
eight days before
- Alaska comes into Miles's and the Colonel's room and recommends that they play a pre-prank before the big prank on the Weekday Warriors.
- Throughout the banter between Alaska and the Colonel, it's revealed that the whole gang is staying in the barn this weekend—including Lara (the girl Miles puked on), who still likes Miles and is just shy. Kind of like Miles.
- Miles wants to know the pre-prank, but Alaska leaves him out of the loop; he's getting tired of the high school angsty stuff.
four days before
- Still left out of the loop, Miles works on homework and finally finishes his religion paper.
- He thinks people can't "bear the idea of death being a big black nothing" (4before.4).
three days before
- Miles packs up (black clothes, a sleeping bag) and walks with the Colonel and Takumi to the Eagle's house, where the Colonel tells the Eagle that he's taking Miles and Takumi to his house.
- The Eagle, rightly suspicious, calls the Colonel's mom, who confirms that yes, her son and his two friends will be staying there this weekend.
- Except… the Colonel called his mom the day before to ask her to cover for him. So she does.
- The four friends set up camp in the barn.
- Ever the militant perfectionist, the Colonel reads the battle plan: front one, get the Eagle; front two, Lara takes an individual mission; front three, send fake progress reports to the Weekday Warriors's parents. Of course the Colonel has itineraries, watches are synchronized, clothing is black.
- Front one: Miles and Takumi set off fireworks on the Eagle's porch to distract him. The Eagle chases them by the lake as the boys drop fireworks the whole time. But the Colonel failed to take the evil swan that guards the lake into account while planning, and the swan (bwahaha) bites Miles in the butt as he runs by.
- Front two: Lara puts the industrial blue dye in some of the Weekday Warriors's gel and conditioner.
- Front three: Alaska and the Colonel print fake progress reports for the three original hazers of Miles's midnight mermaid swim… and twenty other Weekday Warriors.
- Upon finding out that Alaska printed fake progress reports for twenty-three students, the Colonel flips his lid—he thinks that the Eagle will be able to rule out all twenty-three students from his list of suspects.
- Miles observes that he's playing the prank to get the previous pranksters back, but for Alaska, the prank seems to have much more meaning.
- Pleased and settling down into their sleeping bags for the night, the friends pass around cheap wine.
two days before
- Morning arrives, and the Colonel, Alaska, Takumi, Miles, and Lara spend the day hiding in the barn.
- A freestyle rap contest takes place.
- After an extravagant dinner that night of saltines and cheese, the wine is passed around again as the friends play Best Day/Worst Day. Everyone shares first their best day and then their worst day.
- Best day: Miles tells the story of the day as it's happening. Alaska tells the story of going to the zoo with her mom. Lara says that the day she came to the United States was the best day. Takumi's best day was the day he first had sex. The Colonel says that the best day of his life hasn't happened yet—it will be when he buys his mom a huge house because it's hard for her to have him away at school.
- The Colonel wins, so he doesn't have to drink.
- Next, the worst day. For the Colonel, it was when his dad left him and his mom.
- Miles tells the story about when Tommy Hewitt urinated on his gym clothes in seventh grade and the gym teacher said that he had to wear them or fail the class (2before.55).
- Lara's worst day is the same as her best, because even though she's happy she and her family immigrated to the United States, she had to leave everything behind in Romania.
- Takumi's worst day was when he was going to see his grandmother in Japan, but she unexpectedly died in a car accident, so instead of seeing her for vacation, he went to her funeral.
- Alaska's worst day: the day after her mom took her to the zoo, she found her mom fallen over at the kitchen table after school. Alaska started screaming and crying and didn't call 9-1-1, just sat there with her mom; and her dad came home an hour later and asked why she didn't call 9-1-1, but it was too late—her mom was dead of an aneurysm.
- Alaska thinks her dad blames her, and it appears as if Alaska blames herself.
- Silence. Everyone else is shocked. Alaska kept this secret from the Colonel and Takumi for years.
- Miles now knows that the death of Alaska's mom "was the central moment of Alaska's life" (2before.77).
- In an internal monologue, Miles recognizes that Alaska is scared of her inaction and of her paralysis by fear and that perhaps this is why she ratted out Marya. He recalls that President McKinley's last words were "we are all going" (2before.79), and that perhaps this relates to Alaska's labyrinth of suffering.
- When they fall asleep that night, Miles puts his awkward moves on Lara, which she gleefully and quietly accepts.
one day before
- The friends stumble around hung over, and Alaska admits yet another truth—that she is staggeringly unhappy.
- After they stop by the Eagle's house to tell him they're back, they sleep the rest of the day.
the last day
- That morning, Kevin comes in to Miles's and the Colonel's room with a crew cut of blue hair. Clearly the pranks aren't over.
- Miles spends the afternoon with Lara, mostly making out. She wants to get a little sexy, but as neither she nor Miles have any experience with anything beyond kissing, the encounter is beyond awkward.
- The two lovebirds go to Alaska for some sex advice—Alaska laughs until she cries (and so will readers).
- So Miles and Lara do get a little sexy. Then they do homework. Um, okay you guys…
- Lara asks Miles why he likes last words so much, and he explains that sometimes they're funny, but they always reveal a lot about who the people were in life.
- That night, Alaska and the Colonel celebrate their prank by drinking more wine in Alaska's room. Miles just eats pretzels with them because he's not the hugest fan of drinking.
- Alaska wants to play Truth or Dare, and she dares Miles to make out with her. So they kiss, and Miles uses his newfound skills to touch her breasts, and Alaska falls asleep; as she sleeps, Miles tells her he loves her.
- Still in the room drinking, the Colonel comments that this will end poorly. Duh.
- When the payphone in the hall rings, Alaska answers it. She returns sobbing and says she needs to go. She says she forgot something and that she messed up and that they need to distract the Eagle so she can go somewhere in her car.
- Miles, looking back as he's telling us the story, thinks of all the things they didn't say to her, things like "Don't drive. You're drunk" (thelastday.93) or "This can wait until tomorrow" (thelastday.96).
- So Miles and the Colonel set off fireworks again to distract the Eagle, and Alaska drives away. Then the two boys go back to their room and fall asleep.
the day after
- The Eagle stops by Miles's and the Colonel's room and tells them they need to get to the gym but tells them that they're not in trouble.
- Miles and the Colonel walk to the gym, where the rest of the students are sitting on bleachers.
- The Eagle walks to the podium and asks if everyone is here. Miles says that Alaska isn't, and then the Eagle drops the bomb: "Alaska Young was in a terrible accident […] And she was killed. Alaska has passed away" (thedayafter.25).
- The gym is silent.
- Miles runs outside and tries to throw up. He tells himself that she's just being Alaska, that she's playing a trick, but then he returns to the gym and he sees people's reactions—the Colonel is lying on his side, screaming "I'm so sorry" (thedayafter.34).
- Making his way to the Eagle, Miles tells him that it might be a prank. But the Eagle says it wasn't. He says she was on the highway south of downtown and she hit a police cruiser that was on the scene of a jackknifed truck; she was intoxicated, and she died instantly (thedayafter.38).
- Lots of things run through Miles's brain: Alaska's face, her mouth, her death, and the fact that he will never know her last words.
- Walking to their room, the Colonel falls down, Miles picks him up, and they hug, consoling one another as best they can.
two days after
- Miles doesn't sleep. He thinks about the phone call to his parents he had to make about Alaska's death; he thinks about how she is dead and that he feels "paralyzed into silence" (2after.12) and by fear.
- When Miles and the Colonel smoke in the bathroom to relieve tension, the Colonel becomes angry with Alaska for being so impulsive and stupid.
- Miles says they should have stopped her, but the Colonel says that they shouldn't have had to. Fed up with his own thoughts, the Colonel leaves Miles to deal with all the visitors.
- One visitor says, "at least there wasn't any pain" (2after.35), but Miles feels endless pain.
- When Lara stops by to ask what happened, Miles tells her that Alaska got drunk, he and the Colonel went to sleep, and she drove away. This becomes that usual response to that question.
- The school is sending a bus to the funeral.
- Miles dreams: Alaska flies into his room and he says he wants her to stay, but she says no and then becomes a corpse.
four days after
- At 5:00AM, the Colonel comes into their room and tells Miles that he walked forty-two miles to Montevallo and then forty-two miles back because his dreams are terrible, so he doesn't want to sleep.
- The Colonel admits that he was tired of Alaska's unpredictable moods because she never had a reason.
- Finally the Colonel falls asleep. He walked for forty-five hours straight.
six days after
- Most students take the bus to the funeral; Miles, the Colonel, Lara, and Takumi drive in Takumi's car.
- In the car, Miles breaks down and cries for the first time.
- At the funeral (closed coffin), Miles asks why it's closed, and Alaska's father says it's what she wanted.
- Miles walks up to the casket and the Colonel behind him, and they both grieve; Miles insists that he still loves Alaska, even though she's dead.
seven days after
- The Colonel tells Miles that the Eagle ate with him in the cafeteria and wondered if they set off the fireworks the night Alaska died. But the Colonel assures Miles that he didn't snitch.
- At lunch, the Eagle also gave the Colonel fair warning that Alaska's aunt is coming to clean out her room, hinting that Miles and the Colonel should go clean it. Pretty decent of the Eagle, right?
- Miles looks in the usual places she hides contraband items, but doesn't find much—he wants to find The General in His Labyrinth, so that he can take it with him.
- As Miles flips through the book, he sees that because of the flood in her room, all Alaska's notes in the margins are blurred.
- But there is "another ink, this one a crisp blue, post flood, and an arrow led from "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!" to a margin note written in her loop-heavy cursive: Straight & Fast" (7after.22).
- Miles and the Colonel discuss why that is weird, especially given the circumstances under which Alaska died.
- Because of his knowledge of her and this clue, the Colonel thinks she committed suicide; Miles is more hesitant to believe this because of how he feels about Alaska.
- The Colonel keeps trying to figure out the phone call and the mystery, but Miles is just stuck in how guilty he feels.
eight days after
- In World Religions, Dr. Hyde (the Old Man) announces that they will continue to study the religious traditions, but that what they study will probably have more meaning given the death that has marked the community.
- He posts Alaska's semester final on the board. Her question was "How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering" (8after.9).
- Then Dr. Hyde sits and asks the class how they're doing.
- When people who didn't know her "extolled her virtues and professed to be devastated" (8after.12), Miles and the Colonel become irate. Well, mostly the Colonel becomes irate.
nine days after
- After classes the Colonel announces that he has a theory about Alaska: someone calls (he thinks Jake, her boyfriend), they fight, she cries, she freaks out, and then she drives away.
- Miles doesn't want to believe this because Alaska was making out with him, not Jake. He has so many questions, but he's worried about their answers.
- The Colonel wants to solve the mystery; Miles doesn't. Or does he? It's really complicated.
- Convinced that Alaska was going to leave Jake for him, Miles doesn't even want to talk to Jake. But he goes along with the Colonel's game plan of talking to eyewitnesses, figuring out how drunk she was, and figuring out where she was going.
thirteen days after
- The Colonel and Miles go to the police station to try to find eyewitnesses.
- To accomplish this deception, the Colonel says he's Alaska's brother (lie) and that he wants to talk to the cop who saw Alaska last.
- Finally the cop comes outside and relates what he saw: he saw her, his lights were on, his siren was on, but she just keep going until she ran right into him. "She didn't tarn. She didn't brake. She jest hit it" (13after.10).
- After this information, Miles gets his first inkling that the Colonel's theory about suicide may be right.
- The cop continues to say that she was dead when he got to the car; moreover, her blood alcohol content was .24. Also, the cop says, there were white tulips and college brochures in the back seat of her car.
- Walking away from the station, the Colonel tells Miles that Alaska's parents had always put white flowers in her hair when she was young.
- The Colonel is convinced Alaska killed herself; Miles says that all they're doing is smearing her memory—to which the Colonel says, "It's like now you only care about the Alaska you made up" (13after.35). Ouch.
fourteen days after
- According to ten online warning signs of suicide, Alaska only displayed two.
- Miles and the Colonel talk about Alaska, and Miles says that the solving of the mystery is only making him hate Alaska. They admit they're no nearer to solving the mystery of their death than they were at the beginning.
twenty days after
- Miles and the Colonel walk to get a couple of cream pies for dinner from the convenience store.
- When the Colonel brings up talking to Jake again, Miles flips out—he doesn't want to know about her relationship with Jake (because we know that he secretly wanted her to leave Jake for him).
- So the Colonel says some pretty harsh truths: Miles doesn't care about Alaska, he's still stuck on the "secret love affair," Alaska would never leave Jake for him. "If she loved you so much, why did she leave you that night? And if you loved her so much, why'd you help her go?" (20after.15).
- Angrier than he's ever been, Miles walks away. He wanders until he reaches the Smoking Hole and thinks deep thoughts (deeper than deep thoughts by Jack Handey), stuff like whether he'll ever forget Alaska, and whether he will he ever want to.
- And then he acknowledges the fact that she "embodied the Great Perhaps" (20after.23) for him and that she is what helped make him different and now he's stuck in her labyrinth.
- Miles returns to his room and exchanges apologies with the Colonel, who has decided not to talk to Jake yet.
twenty-one days after
- In religion class, Miles has a mini religious crisis when he thinks about Alaska and his beliefs about what happens after death.
- Later that day, Takumi and Miles go to McDonald's and talk about how they miss her. Miles is sorry that he and the Colonel have cut Takumi out as they've been drowning in mystery and grief.
- Takumi asks Miles if he and Lara are dating, because she's wondering. (Yeah, what happened to Lara? How come Miles forgot about her?)
twenty-seven days after
- The Colonel says they need to use the Eagle's Breathalyzer to find out how drunk Alaska actually was. And because they need alcohol as well, the two go to Takumi.
- Takumi, understandably, is angry with the Colonel and Miles because they left him out of the loop for so long—he says that Alaska was his friend too.
- Even though Miles and the Colonel are worried about what will happen when Takumi finds out the truth, they vow to tell him everything the next day.
- Miles goes to the Eagle's house. His job is to keep the Eagle out of the living room so that the Colonel can take the Breathalyzer.
- To complete the deception, Miles tells the Eagle that the Colonel is having a difficult time with Alaska's death (truth) and with Latin (semi-truth). Despite the Eagle's suspicions, Miles and the Colonel get away with it.
- Armed with the Breathalyzer and Takumi's stash of alcohol, Miles and the Colonel try to figure out exactly how drunk someone with a blood alcohol content of .24 is. They choose to do this at 2:00AM.
- Then they hear footsteps. (Remember, the lights are not supposed to be on, but they are.)
- Miles grabs a cigarette and lights it so that he can cover the smell of alcohol, then he shoves the Colonel's head so that he is hunched over and tells him to cry.
- The Eagle opens the door.
- And sees Miles smoking a cigarette after lights out, trying to comfort a hunched over roommate.
- Incredulous at the reckless nerve of the two, the Eagle says that Miles has to go to Jury tomorrow and then leaves.
- The Colonel finally hits .24 at 3:00AM—he says it's awful, that the room is spinning. He can't even walk in a straight line.
- When Miles asks him if he could drive like this, he says no.
- A little strategic vomit later to avoid alcohol poisoning, the Colonel tries to sleep off the rest.
twenty-eight days after
- Annoyed and hung over, the Colonel makes it to Latin and Miles fails a French test.
- Miles goes to Jury and gets ten work hours and comes back to find the Colonel telling Takumi everything.
- In response to their roles in Alaska's death, Takumi says that "we all let her go" (28after.7).
twenty-nine days after
- Out of options, the Colonel calls Jake.
- Meanwhile, Miles admits to Takumi that he kissed Alaska; Takumi in turn admits his own crush on Alaska and tells Miles that he doesn't blame him.
- The Colonel comes back and tells them what he learned: Jake gave her the white flowers, they didn't fight, he called on their eight-month anniversary, and he doesn't know why she freaked out.
- According to Jake, everything was fine and then Alaska freaked out, started crying, and told Jake that she had to go.
- Because she told Jake that she'd talk to him later and because she told Miles "to be continued" after kissing him, Miles and the Colonel think that she was planning for a future.
- But they're still missing a significant something.
thirty-seven days after
- Miles and Lara literally run into one another.
- She looks up angry, and he says that he's sorry—clearly he's apologizing for more than the bump.
- Miles knows he's been a terrible friend and boyfriend.
forty-five days after
- Out of cigarettes, Miles and the Colonel go to buy them at the convenience store and are joking around almost like normal.
- The clerk (who shouldn't be selling to them) asks if they go to Culver Creek and then says she's sorry about the death up there.
forty-six days after
- Even though Miles is not interested in talking to Lara, Takumi—ever the conscientious one—persuades him to.
- Miles goes to Lara's room and apologizes for everything, and Lara, sweet and kind as usual, says that she forgives him.
- The two walk around the lake and are finally able to talk. Miles admits that he loved Alaska and that's why he's been such a jerk, and Lara says that's not really a good reason, but she understands.
- That night, Takumi, Lara, the Colonel, and Miles go to the Smoking Hole. Each one throws a cigarette into the water, a ritual Miles approves of.
- After Takumi says that he's not sure if knowing where Alaska was going would help or make it worse and Lara says she wants to solve the mystery of Alaska's death too, Miles realizes that Alaska wasn't just his—everyone else at the Smoking Hole loved her too.
fifty-one days after
- Miles starts doing his religion homework again and reads about a man who comes to Buddhist enlightenment through realizing there is no best or worst. He wonders that if he will ever be enlightened about Alaska.
- In class, the Old Man reminds students that everything falls apart.
- After this lecture, Miles has his own sort of enlightenment that nothing will last, and that when he stops wishing that things will last, his suffering will stop. He realizes even his memories won't last, that Alaska is leaving him again.
- They have no answers, but Miles still hopes for an answer to why she died.
sixty-two days after
- When he calls his parents on the pay phone at the end of the hall, Miles sees doodles of flowers that he thinks are from Alaska. At long last—a clue.
- Miles tells the Colonel that she was doodling flowers on the white paint while on the phone with Jake, freaked out, and then got the white tulips.
- A little less excited than Miles, the Colonel reminds Miles that they still don't know what she forgot.
sixty-nine days after
- Miles still can't figure out the flowers, and he feels like Alaska is truly gone.
- He and the Colonel go to smoke by the lake and think of the school meeting they had earlier, where the Eagle announced that the school is going to build a playground to commemorate Alaska. After this announcement in the meeting, Lara stood up and said that they should do something Alaska would have done.
- While smoking, the Colonel says they should pull one last, memorial prank. Alaska came up with the prank he's thinking of the year before—"Subverting the Patriarchal Paradigm" (69after.7).
- It is, according to Miles, an epic prank, "the culmination of generations of Culver Creek pranking" (69after.7). Sounds like a pretty perfect tribute to us.
eighty-three days after
- After spring break, the Colonel presents his extensive plans about the prank.
- He, Miles, Takumi, and Lara outline the plan, which includes finding a stripper and getting Miles's dad in on it.
eighty-four days after
- Every year there is one Friday when there are no classes and everyone at Culver Creek is expected to report to the gym for Speaker Day, a notoriously boring day—part of the prank is to "shake Speaker Day up a bit" (84after.1).
- The task is to persuade the Eagle that the junior speaker is a doctor and scholar of "deviant sexuality in adolescents" (84after.2); this is where Miles's dad comes in.
- So Miles calls him and tells him that he's got to play a part in the new greatest prank of Culver Creek. And Miles's dad says he'll do it but Miles can't ever tell his mother. Way to have a cool dad, Miles.
- The prank won't work without the help of the Weekday Warriors (an idea that the Colonel hates), but the Warriors approve wholeheartedly. This must be a pretty great prank if sworn enemies are coming together to pull it off…
- The leader of the Warriors and Miles go to talk to the Eagle, telling him their choice in speaker. The Eagle calls the speaker (who is actually Miles's father) and approves of the choice.
one hundred two days after
- The details of the prank are revealed: the man who will play Dr. Morse is actually a stripper named Maxx (but his real name is Stan).
- To avoid monetary trouble, Takumi and Miles collect Maxx's appearance fee, which amounts to five bucks from each junior.
- Everyone knows about the prank, but no one talks. Amazing, right?
- Maxx doesn't show up at Speaker Day at the scheduled time, and instead he's ten minutes late (he's also about thirty and very handsome).
- Annoyed because there's a glitch in his plan, the Colonel meets a late Maxx, hands him a copy of the speech, and pays him in advance.
- Miles doesn't think that there are any expellable offenses in the prank; he read the handbook fairly carefully.
- Miles sits with Maxx/Dr. William Morse in the front row of the bleachers because Maxx is his father's "friend." Lara and the Colonel sit behind him. Takumi surreptitiously connects his speakers to the gym loudspeakers.
- When the Eagle introduces Dr. Morse, everyone claps. The entire junior class knows about the prank but no one else does.
- Maxx/Dr. Morse starts reading the speech that the Colonel and Miles wrote for him, and when he gets about two paragraphs in, Lara stands up and tells him to take off his clothes.
- Still reading from the speech, Maxx/Dr. Morse says that the situation is interesting and that it's important to "subvert the patriarchal paradigm" (102after.35).
- Maxx/Dr. Morse yells "This one's for Alaska Young!" (102after.35), Takumi starts to play music, and Maxx starts to strip.
- The crowd—predictably/understandably—goes nuts.
- After a few stunned seconds, the Eagle leaps up and tries not to smile as he points to the door for Maxx/Dr. Morse.
- Once Speaker Day ends (the second speaker was terrible), everyone wants to know if it was Miles, the Colonel, Lara, and Takumi—all four of them say it was Alaska.
- As the four are relaxing in Miles and the Colonel's dorm room, the Eagle suddenly opens the door. He says he knows it was them but implicitly acknowledges that he approves. How could anyone be mad at such an awesome prank?
one hundred fourteen days after
- Miles returns to his room to find Takumi, who says that Alaska died on January 10 and that her mom took her to the zoo on January 9.
- When the Colonel comes in, the two boys tell him their realization.
- The Colonel talks through the series of events one last time: Jake calls, Alaska's doodling white flowers, she realizes that it's the anniversary of her mom's death, and drives to her mom's grave.
- There's still no definitive answer about whether her death was an accident or suicide.
one hundred eighteen days after
- "So we gave up" (118after.1). The friends are tired of chasing a ghost, and know they've figured out as much about Alaska's death as they can.
- As one last act of remembrance, the Colonel wants to drive through the place of her death, which Miles agrees to, but Lara and Takumi refuse.
- On the way there, Miles admits that Alaska's death feels pure and the Colonel agrees.
- At the spot, Miles thinks that "Straight and fast. Maybe she just decided at the last second." (118after.15).
- They make it through physically and emotionally, switch drivers, and cry one last time.
one hundred nineteen days after
- Miles and the Colonel spend all the rest of their time studying to try to bring their grades up to their goals.
one hundred twenty-two days after
- The Old Man wants to have class outside. (Miles is irked because he got kicked out of class for looking outside.)
- He hands out the final paper assignment for the semester. It's a variation of Alaska's question: "How will you—you personally—ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? Now that you've wrestled with three major religious traditions, apply your newly enlightened mind to Alaska's question" (122after.2).
- The Old Man explains the question. He asserts that each of the founder figures of Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism had a message of hope, and then he asks what each student's cause for hope is.
- Later, back in their room, the Colonel says he prefers the labyrinth of suffering to getting out of it straight and fast.
one hundred thirty-six days after
- The semester ends in less than twenty-four hours, and Miles still hasn't finished his final for the Old Man.
- He comes back after his precalc test and notices a letter to him and the Colonel from Takumi.
- In the letter, Takumi says that he saw Alaska on the night of her death; she told him that she needed to put flowers on her mother's grave and that she forgot. He says that he thought she was just looking for flowers; he admits that he let her go too.
- Miles runs to Takumi's room to tell him he forgives him, but Takumi is gone; Miles realizes that "we had to forgive to survive in the labyrinth" (136after.9).
- Miles also realizes that even though he doesn't know Alaska's last moments and thoughts, the not-knowing won't stop him from caring.
- The Colonel isn't back in their room yet, so Miles sits down to write his final for the Old Man. In the final, he writes about several realizations:
- He first thought that the way out of the labyrinth was to ignore it.
- He still believes in a Great Perhaps.
- He will forget Alaska, and she will forgive him for it.
- He thought she was just dead, but now thinks that part of her "cannot be destroyed" (122after.16).
- He wishes he could have given Alaska hope so she didn't commit suicide.
- He forgives Alaska, he knows she will forgive him, and he hopes it's beautiful where she is.