"Looking For Alaska" by John Green, Before: 136-87 Days

Tired of his life at home, Miles Halter leaves for boarding school where he meets (and falls in love with) the impulsive and unpredictable Alaska Young. But when tragedy strikes, Miles begins to question his relationship with Alaska.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Before: 136-87 Days, Before: 84-0 Days, After

Here are links to our lists for other books by John Green: An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All the Way Down

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. insist
    be emphatic or resolute and refuse to budge
    The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party.
  2. ragtag
    disparaging terms for the common people
    Although I was more or less forced to invite all my “school friends,” i.e., the ragtag bunch of drama people and English geeks I sat with by social necessity in the cavernous cafeteria of my public school, I knew they wouldn’t come.
  3. persevere
    be persistent, refuse to stop
    Still, my mother persevered, awash in the delusion that I had kept my popularity secret from her all these years.
  4. incredulous
    not disposed or willing to believe; unbelieving
    He got through the A’s before looking up and noticing my incredulous stare.
  5. indulgence
    the act of gratifying a desire
    It was an indulgence, learning last words.
  6. reckless
    characterized by careless unconcern
    He told me this while ripping through his duffel bag, throwing clothes into drawers with reckless abandon.
  7. haphazardly
    in a random manner
    Her library filled her bookshelves and then overflowed into waist-high stacks of books everywhere, piled haphazardly against the walls.
  8. fervent
    characterized by intense emotion
    I mean, I hate the rich snots here with a fervent passion I usually reserve only for dental work and my father.
  9. predispose
    make susceptible
    She had the kind of eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor.
  10. overwhelm
    overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli
    “Yeah, you’re not bad either,” I said, overwhelmed by her compliment.
  11. modesty
    formality and propriety of manner
    But Takumi felt no such modesty—he could, and did, eat and chew and swallow while talking.
  12. courtesy
    a polite, respectful, or considerate act
    I wondered why no one had shown the common courtesy to tell me to put on shoes, and why was I out there in my underwear, chicken legs exposed to the world?
  13. humiliation
    an instance causing you to lose prestige or self-respect
    A thousand humiliations crossed my mind: There’s the new junior, Miles Halter, handcuffed to the soccer goal wearing only his boxers.
  14. apparently
    from appearances alone
    My French I class back in Florida did not prepare me for Madame O’Malley, who skipped the “how was your summer” pleasantries and dove directly into something called the passé compose, which is apparently a verb tense.
  15. inimitable
    And the way her mouth curled up on the right side all the time, like she was preparing to smirk, like she’d mastered the right half of the Mona Lisa’s inimitable smile.
  16. vestige
    an indication that something has been present
    A vestige from when Culver Creek was a Christian boys’ school, I figured the World Religions class, required of every junior and senior, might be an easy A.
  17. vague
    lacking clarity or distinctness
    I hated talking, and I hated listening to everyone else stumble on their words and try to phrase things in the vaguest possible way so they wouldn’t sound dumb, and I hated how it was all just a game of trying to figure out what the teacher wanted to hear and then saying it.
  18. diminutive
    very small
    After my last class of my first week at Culver Creek, I entered Room 43 to an unlikely sight: the diminutive and shirtless Colonel, hunched over an ironing board, attacking a pink button-down shirt.
  19. tolerate
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    The Old Man, who obviously did not tolerate vocalized rambling, cut me off.
  20. abide
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    For fifty minutes a day, five days a week, you abide by my rules.
  21. unravel
    I don’t understand why you’re so obsessed with figuring out everything that happens here, like we have to unravel every mystery.
  22. incorrigible
    impervious to correction by punishment
    “Yeah, Pudge is adorable / but you want incorrigible / so Jake is more endurable / ’cause he’s so—damn."
  23. unimpeachable
    beyond doubt or reproach
    She looked at me and smiled widely, and such a wide smile on her narrow face might have looked goofy were it not for the unimpeachably elegant green in her eyes.
  24. extravagant
    recklessly wasteful
    Although I’d never ridden in it, Alaska apparently had a car, and she offered to drive the Colonel and me to McDonald’s, but the Colonel didn’t have any money, and I didn’t have much either, what with constantly paying for his extravagant cigarette habit.
  25. principled
    based on objectively defined standards of rightness
    I didn’t hate him like the Colonel did, of course, because the Colonel hated him on principle, and principled hate is a hell of a lot stronger than “Boy, I wish you hadn’t mummified me and thrown me into the lake” hate.
  26. intimidating
    discouraging through fear
    Still, I tried to stare at him intimidatingly as he looked at the Colonel, but it was hard to forget that this guy had seen my skinny ass in nothing but boxers a couple weeks ago.
  27. dissension
    disagreement among those expected to cooperate
    Like any good teacher, she tolerated little dissension.
  28. clarify
    make clear and comprehensible
    She smoked and talked and ate for an hour without stopping, and I scribbled in my notebook as the muddy waters of tangents and cosines began to clarify.
  29. profess
    state freely
    As she talked, she bobbed her head back and forth to the MTV music, even though the song was the kind of manufactured pop ballad she professed to hate.
  30. pretentious
    creating an appearance of importance or distinction
    The Colonel blew smoke rings, and Takumi called them “ pretentious,” while Alaska followed the smoke rings with her fingers, stabbing at them like a kid trying to pop bubbles.
  31. remedial
    tending or intended to rectify or improve
    I sat in the hall with my back against the wall and read my American history textbook (kind of remedial reading for me, to be honest) until Alaska showed up and sat down next to me.
  32. privilege
    a special advantage or benefit not enjoyed by all
    “Don’t abuse your privileges at this school, young man, or you will regret it.”
  33. aloof
    remote in manner
    If I were you, I’d sit down, look cute, and be your pleasantly aloof self.
  34. anxiety
    a vague unpleasant emotion in anticipation of a misfortune
    I don’t know whether it was the general anxiety of being on a date (albeit one with my would-be date sitting five people away from me) or the specific anxiety of having the Beast stare in my direction, but for some reason, I took off running after Takumi.
  35. ambiguity
    an expression whose meaning cannot be determined
    And I vaguely remember Lara smiling at me from the doorway, the glittering ambiguity of a girl’s smile, which seems to promise an answer to the question but never gives it.

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