Q: A friend of mine read Looking for Alaska and said Alaska should never have died and it was pointless. What would you say to her?
I agree with your friend that death is infuriatingly pointless. But it’s also, really, really common. (I am reminded of the Onion headline: Despite Efforts, World Death Rate Remains Steady at 100%.) To me, Alaska is about loss and grief and struggling against the nihilism that many of us feel when confronted with death. So it could never have been about anything else, because I never had another story in mind. I wrote every word of the first half knowing the second half was coming, so I can’t imagine it any other way. If Pudge and the Colonel and Alaska had gone on having a rip-roaring time,then the book would’ve been about…what?
Usually when characters die in books, it happens at the very end or the very beginning. I wanted it to happen in the middle, because I wanted readers to meet and care about and empathize with Alaska, and then to lose her, and then to have to make the same journey that Pudge and the Colonel and the rest of them are making. I wanted the reader to have to battle against that feeling of pointlessness and to find some hope in a life that includes unresolved and unresolvable grief.