The 'Looking for Alaska' Show & Book Tell The Same Story, But With Some Changes
Whenever a book is adapted for television or film, there's bound to be at least a few changes. This holds true even for a character-centric, coming-of-age tale like John Green's Looking for Alaska, which premieres Oct. 18 on Hulu. The differences between the Looking for Alaska book and show appear to be mostly subtle, but they're still important changes that will help the adaptation find relevance with newer audiences.
Looking for Alaska the novel came out in 2005, and was author John Green's first book; he was only 23 at the time of writing it. Centered around teenager Miles "Pudge" Halter — a stand-in for a young Green — the story kicks off when Miles moves from Florida and enrolls in Alabama's Culver Creek boarding school, seeking a great adventure. There, he finds a core group of loyal friends and falls in love with classmate Alaska Young. Things seem ideal until Miles and his close friends are all embroiled in a sudden tragedy. The rest of the story is them attempting to make sense of what happened, and figuring out if closure is possible.
In a 2018 Reddit AMA, Green endorsed the way writers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (the team behind Marvel's Runaways and The CW's Gossip Girl) have adapted his beloved novel for the small screen. The most notable change that fans will likely notice is that Alaska is not just viewed from Miles' point of view, but instead has her own story and agency, correcting one of the most criticized aspects of the original book. "You'll see Alaska from her own perspective, instead of just Pudge's deeply flawed one," Green explained.
Green also hinted at expanded storylines for all the characters — which makes sense, considering Looking for Alaska is a very interior, first-person novel, and those tend to be difficult to translate onscreen. "I feel like they're going to tell the story while also letting you see more of life at Culver Creek," Green said.
That's not to say the setting or characters will be vastly different from their book counterparts, though. "I truly feel like what people saw in their heads when they read this book is what they're going to see onscreen," Denny Love, who plays Miles' friend Chip "Colonel" Martin, told Entertainment Weekly. "Green said the campus we shot the show on looked more like his school did back then than his actual school does now ... everything is there."
In the same interview, Jay Lee, who plays Miles and Alaska's friend Takumi Hikohito, said that Green gave the cast his blessing to interpret his characters whatever way they wished, making the project feel both nostalgic and new. "[Green] was incredibly trusting to say, 'This is what I remember of him, and this is what went into the book," Lee said of the real person who inspired Takumi. "'And now I'm passing it off to you. I want you to be able to take this and run with it.'"
Kristine Froseth, Alaska's actor, told TVGuide how she built her own Alaska similar to, but more defined from, her book counterpart. "The ideas of everything being your first...your first love, your first friendship, and just being that age and remembering what that was like. I took a little bit of everything, really, and then kept building up on that," she explained. "There's just so much more time we spend with [Alaska], and seeing how she interacts more with her friends and with Miles. Just those little bits say so much about her that I didn't fully get in the book."
Ultimately, it's a collaborative effort between Schwartz, Savage, the cast, and Green, who Schwartz says very generously read all the scripts, watched all the cuts, and provided feedback. "[Green] is very generous both with his time and also with allowing us to make this adaptation in the way that we feel is best for this medium," Schwartz told TVGuide.
For fans, that means the version of Looking for Alaska they see onscreen will be pretty similar to the book they fell in love with — just with an expanded story.