Warning: Spoilers from the book, Looking for Alaska, are below.
Before youths everywhere became obsessed with John Green’s books The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, they were fascinated by the world of an Alabama prep school in the author’s debut novel Looking for Alaska. Even if you have never read it before, chances are you saw the quote from the young adult novel about drizzle, rain, and a hurricane on Tumblr or somewhere else and shared it.
Now, almost 15 years after the book was published, Hulu is bringing Looking for Alaska to life with an eight-part limited series out on October 18. But while the artistic minds behind the show had to work hard to cast the right actors for the roles, it was probably much easier for them to recreate the setting of Green’s novel since it is based on an actual school. That’s right, (if you cleared it with the administrators) you could visit the real private school in Looking for Alaska. Sort of.
The teen, coming-of-age drama, just like the book it is based on, follows a boy named Miles, nick-named Pudge, who moves from Florida to Alabama to attend Culver Creek Preparatory High School. Although devoted fans of Looking for Alaska have built a website dedicated to Culver Creek, a boarding school by that name doesn’t really exist. Green created the fictionalized school from the real Indian Springs School located near Birmingham, Alabama, which he attended.
Still, he did use his time at Indian Springs School to inspire some aspects of the novel. In 2010, Green recorded himself returning to his high school alma mater and discussing the connections to his book.
After quickly summarizing the plot of Looking for Alaska, Green mentions his similarities to Miles saying, “I, myself, was once a guy from Florida who was obsessed with the dying words of famous people and then left home to go to a boarding school in Alabama.” He adds, “Looking for Alaska is fictional but the setting really isn’t. The school in the book is called Culver Creek, but it is almost inch-for-inch the same place that Indian Springs School was in 1995.”
In the video, he pans his camera to multiple features and locations at the school that are referenced in Looking for Alaska like the cafeteria, the swan, and the swing where Alaska and Miles have their first conversation.
The novelist and YouTuber has further elaborated on the setting of the novel in the frequently- asked-questions section of his website. Multiple fans have sent inquiries to Green about Culver Creek and the differences between the book and his real experience at the “magical” Indian Springs School, as he puts it. “The dorms are vastly different, and the barn where Alaska and Pudge and Takumi and everyone spend the night is no longer there,” Green pointed out in one response. “The physical campus of Indian Springs is very similar to the physical campus of Culver Creek, and I do think it’s a great place to seek your Great Perhaps.”
He also provided a little insight into his own experience with his version of “Alaska.”
“When I was a student at Indian Springs, a classmate of mine died, and her death was devastating to the entire community.” In another reply, he added, “I understand the urge to find the historical facts that may be hidden inside of novels, and I’m not going to deny that Alaska is in many ways an autobiographical novel, but I ignored the facts whenever it suited me, and the story that resulted is truly imagined and I hope that it will be read that way.”
Hulu’s Looking for Alaska wasn’t filmed at Indian Springs School. But, according to IMDb, one of the filming locations for the show was Birmingham, Alabama. Fans of the book shouldn’t be disappointed, though. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Denny Love, who plays Chip “Colonel” Martin,” spoke about the set and Green’s thoughts on it since he visited it often. “When we even went to the campus for the first time, John Green said the campus we shot the show on looked more like his school did back then than his actual school does now after 15 years of renovations. Everything is there — we even got the swan.”
Well, if Green sounds pleased with the TV-version of Culver Creek, then that sounds promising. Hopefully viewers will feel transported back to their teenage-selves reading Looking for Alaska while watching the series.