Not my favourite John Green book (Currently that honour goes to Paper Towns)... but it still hit me right in the feels.
I didn't feel it was as polished as his other books, being the first, and his characters lacked the depth that his later books have, but as it was still well written.
SPOILERy bits and my own thoughts/experiences to follow.
Firstly, the bit I didn't like... the counting the layers thing. JUST PLAIN CREEPY. Do teenage boys really think like that? Sadly I already know the answer; it's not just teenage boys, I spent 12 years with a man who was just as creepy (but that's a story for a different time).
Secondly, the drinking, smoking and sex was really going to be a 'don't like' bit. I was going to complain and say this feels a bit unrealistic, then in reflection I realised, I drank and smoked more at 16 than I have at 34 (having quit smoking at 23 and lived with the alcoholism of the above mention creepy ex), as for the sex, well the same is, sadly, also true. So now it's floating somewhere between don't and do like...
The need to fit in is so strong when you're a teen, you're trying to make your mark on the world in whatever way you can, that there doesn't even need to be peer pressure for someone to join in with an activity they wouldn't have previously considered. The consequences be damned.
Things I liked... The chapter count down gave a sense of anticipation, what could we be counting down to, is it going to be the prank of the century? Are Miles and Alaska going to hook up? Then BAM! he hits you with that, right there in them feels.
I have been lucky, I have never lost anyone close to me through a car accident, but I know plenty of people who have, some numerous times. I have lost many people that I loved though, some after long suffering battles with cancer or other fatal disease, others through sudden causes; like heart attack, some through suicide. I had dealt with all 3 by the time I was 13.
I don't think it matters whether you have had time to prepare yourself for loss or if it's suddenly thrust upon you, you still question yourself. Is there anything you should have/shouldn't have done? was it something you did/didn't do? It makes you question your own mortality, maybe more so as a teen, when you do feel invincible, but definitely as an adult as well, when you realise that this person (in the case of this book for example) is the same age as you.
Overall, I think the book was fairly true to how I remember my teenage years, and how I've dealt with loss (looking for answers, wondering if it was my fault etc).
I was going to give this 3 stars, but upon writing this and looking at my written thoughts, I've moved it up to 4 stars.