Unable to deal with unanswered questions surrounding Alaska’s death, Pudge and the Colonel begin investigating why Alaska was upset and why she left the night that she died. The two roommates trek to the Pelham Police Department where the Colonel pretends to be Alaska’s brother in order to gather more information about the crash. The police officer indicates that Alaska did not swerve at all when she hit the tractor-trailer, her blood alcohol level was 0.24 – far above the legal limit – and that she had white tulips in her car. Pudge is unwilling to admit that it had something to do with Jake, the Colonel tells Pudge to remember Alaska the way she truly was, not as the fantasized version Pudge was in love with.
In Dr. Hyde’s class, the discussion focuses on Sufism, a sect of Islam, and the idea of an afterlife. Still not fully coming to terms with Alaska’s death, Pudge wonders where Alaska was at that moment even as he knows that she is not physically present.
A few days later the Colonel decides that the best way to proceed with their investigation into Alaska’s death is to replicate her state of drunkenness. Pudge and the Colonel purposefully keep Takumi from helping with their plan to steal the Eagle’s Breathalyzer and get the Colonel drunk to the same level Alaska was on the night of her death. Pudge distracts the Eagle while the Colonel swipes the Breathalyzer from his house. Back in their room, the Colonel takes shots of vodka until the Eagle briefly interrupts them, admonishing Pudge for smoking after hours, but believes Pudge’s excuse of trying to comfort the Eagle. Hours after consuming the alcohol, the Colonel and Pudge decide that Alaska was indeed drunk, but they come to no further conclusions from their experiment.
Without any further explanation as to Alaska’s death, Pudge and the Colonel begin to include Takumi in their investigation. While the Colonel calls Jake, Takumi expresses his displeasure about not being included in their investigation. Takumi calls Pudge out on selfishly thinking he was the only one who loved Alaska because he was the only one who kissed her. The Colonel explains that Jake was the one who called during the middle of the night, but their phone conversation was not likely what caused Alaska’s distress.
Forty-six days after Alaska’s death, Pudge works up the courage to resolve the awkward tension between him and Lara, whom he has not spoken to since their return from the pre-prank. Pudge admits his love for Alaska and Lara is accepting of his reasoning, perhaps because she knew it all along.
Normalcy returns to Pudge’s life when he begins focusing more in Dr. Hyde’s class and interacting with Takumi and Lara again. One Saturday when he calls his parents from the same phone that Alaska talked to Jake, Pudge spots Alaska’s doodle of white flowers next to the phone and believes it to be the trigger for her distress, though the root of her distress still remains unclear.
To take a break from the investigation and in an attempt to find some closure, the Colonel comes up with The Alaska Young Memorial Prank, also called ‘Subverting the Patriarchal Paradigm’ to be executed on Speaker Day in memory of Alaska. Speaker Day at Culver Creek entails speeches from small-time celebrities picked by the junior and senior classes. Pudge gets his father to pretend to be Dr. William Morse, a preeminent school of adolescent sexuality, in his phone call to the Eagle while the Colonel plans to have a stripper act as Dr. Morse on Speaker Day.
The day of the prank, the stripper named Maxx arrives and delivers his pretend speech perfectly. As planned, Lara interrupts him by asking Dr. Morse/Maxx to take off his clothes and he starts stripping to Prince’s “Get Off.” The Eagle, of course, is furious and knows that it was Pudge’s group of friends but does not punish them, understanding that they did this for Alaska.
One week later, Takumi reopens the investigation by linking the date of Alaska’s death, January 10th, as the same day that her mother died. Prompted by the white flower doodle by the phone, Alaska realized that she had forgotten her mother’s death and was attempting to drive to her grave where she would place the white tulips when she died.
With the investigation over, Pudge is thankful for Alaska bringing him closer to the Great Perhaps. While visiting the site of the crash with the Colonel, Pudge realizes that being alive is something to be cherished; he has all the time in the world to continue looking for the Great Perhaps or, perhaps, to enjoy the moment. This is an important realization for Pudge as he and the Colonel throw themselves back into their neglected schoolwork.
Dr. Hyde’s final essay proves to be a perfect way for Pudge to work through his feelings about Alaska and her death. Following the prompt “How will you – you personally – ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” Pudge reflects on the wonder that Alaska brought into his life and he forgives Alaska for abandoning him because he realizes that she will continue to live on through their memories, helping them through the labyrinth of suffering.
The closing chapters of Looking for Alaska answer many questions surrounding Alaska’s death, but also open many more for the reader. Though Pudge and his friends find a suitable explanation for why Alaska drove off, it remains unclear whether her death was an accident or suicide. Green has stated in interviews that Alaska’s death is unsettled in his own mind. The ambiguous ending of the novel allows for the reader to further engage with Pudge as a narrator. The novel is told from Pudge’s perspective, allowing the reader insight into his thoughts, but the ending allows for the reader to think as Pudge, as a person who still has questions about Alaska and her death.
Though many questions remain, Pudge is able to work through the some of the mystery surrounding Alaska’s death. In his quest to find out more about Alaska, his demeanor changes. In the preceding section of the novel Pudge’s character is more self-contained, but the investigation spurs Pudge to action. He actively seeks out answers to Alaska’s death and is able to convey his feelings for Alaska out loud when confronted by Takumi.
Takumi’s confrontation with Pudge also plays an important role in furthering the idea of belonging, which is present throughout the novel. Pudge and the Colonel initially do not allow Takumi to partake in the investigation, but he challenges Pudge to allow him to join. During the conversation Takumi expresses his anger for not being included as well as his love for Alaska, something on which Pudge had previously thought he had a monopoly. Takumi feels that he belongs in the investigation and in the emotional bond that Pudge had with Alaska. Though originally a social outcast and alone in his feelings for Alaska, Pudge comes full circle by allowing Takumi to belong.
A central question that Pudge works through the end of the novel is what happens after death. Dr. Hyde teaches about the afterlife in his class through the lens of different religions. The subject is made more personal for Pudge following Alaska’s death and he is able to explore the larger meaning of the afterlife by exploring his feelings about Alaska. Prior to writing his final essay for Dr. Hyde, Pudge struggled with the idea of Alaska being gone. Alaska’s influence on his life was immense and losing her felt like Pudge was losing a part of himself. However, through writing his essay Pudge is able to realize that his conception of Alaska may be gone but her energy and influence will continue to live on through those that knew her.
In addition to seeing that Alaska’s memory will not be diminished by her death, Pudge is confronted about his idolization of her. His constructed image of Alaska is challenged first by the Colonel who contends Pudge’s remembrance of Alaska as an all-benevolent person and then by Takumi who changes Pudge’s image of her as someone who was only loved by Pudge.
The Alaska Young Memorial Prank is an important representation of Pudge’s realization about Alaska continuing to live on in those who knew her. Not only does it embody Alaska’s love of pranks, but it also pays tribute to her values of female empowerment. Several times in the novel, Alaska makes it known that she is against objectification of the female body.