Hulu’s “Looking for Alaska” is both heartwarming and heartbreaking

Hulu's TV remake of the book

Courtesy of Hulu

Hulu's TV remake of the book "Looking for Alaska" by John Green provided a new perspective on the characters and events of the novel.

Beth Ellis, Staff Writer

Hulu’s mini, one-season series of “Looking for Alaska,” created by Josh Swartz, brings writer John Green’s first novel to life in an emotional eight episodes.

As an avid book lover myself, John Green is one of my favorite authors. When I first read the book, I fell in love with the story and was skeptical about an on-screen remake. The movies “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in our Stars” based on John Green’s novels had been unimpressive and, in all honesty, mildly disappointing in comparison to the detailed chapter books. However, “Looking for Alaska” proved to live up to the book’s reputation, addressing the deep topics of love, friendship, guilt, and grief covered in the novel with incredible accuracy and detail, while still leaving the ominous feeling of suspense and mystery that the novel creates. The series also allowed viewers to better and much more deeply understand the thoughts and emotions of the different characters in a way unlike the original novel, which was limited to the mindset and experiences of the main character.

Set in the early 2000s, “Looking for Alaska” follows the life of Miles Halter, nicknamed “Pudge,” and his experiences at Culver Creek Academy, a boarding school in Alabama. The dynamic seems more like a summer camp, where the worst things teenagers could be caught doing on campus were smoking, consuming alcohol, or, in the eyes of the students, “being a rat” and getting other students in trouble. Fascinated by famous last words and inspired by French writer Francois Rabelais, who said “I go to seek a Great Perhaps,” Halter leaves his home in Florida in search of adventure and something that he considers more than a minor life- a life worth living. Once at the school, he befriends a team of prank-loving friends: Chip “The Colonel” Martin, Takumi Hikohito, and, most importantly, Alaska Young, a clever, emotional and mysterious girl with whom Halter quickly falls in love.

For anyone who has read the book, you know that the story does not have a happy ending for Alaska. Even if you haven’t read the story, the rainy opening scene and the countdown of “days before” at the end of each episode are a clear indication of the tragedy to come. That being said, the episodes leading up to the fatalistic scene are nothing short of incredible, showing in immense detail and creativity the growth in the friendship between the characters, the mysteries of their (particularly Alaska’s) tragic pasts, and their connections and interactions with the other teachers and students at the school.

Although this drama-filled series left me with questions, it is full of both heartbreaking and heartwarming scenes that gave me an entirely new perspective on, and appreciation for, life, friendship, and suffering in ways that no other show I’ve watched has quite so successfully done. It presented the serious emotions and topics of the story in a way that teenagers are able to relate to.

One question, in particular, was brought up throughout the entire series and stuck in my mind even after I finished the show. Inspired by the words of Simon Bolivar, Young and Halter ask the question, “How do you escape a labyrinth of suffering?” Both characters had their own answers to the question in the final episodes, and it left me wondering how I would answer the question for myself. Is there truly an escape from suffering and pain, or are we all trapped in the maze forever, fated to experience both the positive and negative sides of life? Does suffering always exist?

Overall, I was deeply impressed with this remake of the beloved book, and I highly recommend giving it a chance, especially if you’re a fan of John Green’s books or any of the movies that were made from them.