John Green’s very first novel, Looking for Alaska, is finally headed to the screen after more than a decade of attempts.
The best-selling YA novelist broke out with readers with this explicit book about Miles “Pudge” Halter, a teenager who enrolls in a boarding school to get more perspective on life; he quickly meets and falls for a student named Alaska Young, and after she unexpectedly dies, it becomes his (and his friends’) mission to uncover what happened to her. The book was inspired by Green’s own high school experiences, and rights to it were acquired by Paramount Pictures in 2005, the same year the book was published. But nothing ever materialized — until now.
Hulu has picked up an eight-episode limited series adaptation of Looking for Alaska, hailing from O.C. creator Josh Schwartz and fellow TV veteran Stephanie Savage. (The pair previously created Marvel’s Runaways for the streamer.) Green’s best-known adaptation remains The Fault in Our Stars, a huge box office success, and more recently a movie based on his novel Paper Towns was released in 2015.
With Green’s legion of fans excited and anxious to learn more about the Looking for Alaska adaptation, the author hosted a Reddit AMA where he shed some light on what he knows, and what viewers can expect. Read on below for the biggest revelations from the chat, including the level of Green’s involvement, what will be spotlighted in the show, and whether there’s any casting news. In case you missed out on the book, you can purchase a copy here.
This adaptation was 13 years in the making
“I sold the rights to Paramount shortly after the book came out … I was very much included in conversations around how to do this. Should we try to restart the movie, which had stalled so many times? Or should we look to new ways of telling visual stories that made it possible to tell a bigger, sprawlier story? I was only one voice in that conversation, but I definitely felt like my voice was heard. And I felt like limited series gave us all kinds of freedoms — when it comes to the stuff you can depict, the space you have to tell multiple stories from multiple points of view, and so on.”
He’s read the pilot, and is optimistic
“The truth is, I am excited and I think it will be really good. Josh and Stephanie really know television, and I love their Hulu series Runaways, and from reading the pilot and seeing the series map they’ve laid out, I feel like they’re going to tell the story while also letting you see more of life at Culver Creek, and more of Alaska from her own perspective instead of just Pudge’s deeply flawed one. It has been a very long thirteen years trying to figure out how/whether to adapt Alaska, but Josh cared about the book before almost anyone else had even read it, and he and Stephanie have worked so hard to get to this moment, and I am really excited.”
He’ll be fairly involved in the adaptation, but mostly in the background
“[I won’t be involved] too much, probably, on account of the garden and my family and my monthly obligation to write two 1,000 word reviews for my weird little podcast. I want to support the folks working on it in any way I can, and I’m sure I’ll visit the set and stuff. And they’ve been SO welcoming to me in all the conversations about how to proceed; I’ll certainly continue to be part of any conversations they want me in. But I don’t want to get in their way, and I also don’t want it to take over my life.”
He’s not crazy about the idea of a second season, but has some ideas
“I would not be super-interested in participating [in a second season]. (I also think it’s very unlikely.) But one shouldn’t say never. Who knows. Maybe season 2 would be the story of Pudge joining a ninth tier English soccer team called AFC Wimbledon that’s just beginning to work their way up through the leagues in what will within nine years be the greatest comeback story in the history of sports.”
There’s one scene he’s particularly interested in seeing translated to the screen
“I think — although I might be wrong about this — there is one scene toward the end of the book where [Miles’ new boarding school roommate] the Colonel goes on a long cold walk and then returns and Pudge is in one bunk bed and the Colonel is in the other and they’re talking… when I was writing, that was one of the few scenes I could really see in my mind. So I think that would be cool to see on screen.”
He’s had mixed feelings about the book since first publishing it
“In the first couple years after publishing [Looking for Alaska], there were things I found discomforting about it — some of which I tried to address in Paper Towns. I think part of what people have responded to in the book is the nakedness of it, the lack of artifice and all that stuff. I don’t really know why that book in particular has meant so much to some of its readers, but I’m grateful. My goal in 2005 for Alaska was for it to be in print long enough to make it to a paperback edition. I never imagined that thirteen years later, it would still be finding a wide readership. So I guess how I feel about it is, like, baffled and grateful and slightly embarrassed.”
The show will still target a contemporary YA audience
“As for the age range: I think they want it to appeal to contemporary teenagers, but they also know that people have been reading this book for thirteen years, and so its readers are all kinds of ages now.”
No, he doesn’t know anything about casting
“I know it is hard to believe this, but I really and genuinely have absolutely no knowledge of anything related to casting and probably will find out about who gets cast only moments before you do.”
Read Green’s full AMA here.