Summary: 58 days before

Miles wakes up in his room to the sound of Alaska playing one of his video games. Chip has left to continue sleeping in Alaska’s room. Alaska tells Miles that she knows that Takumi told him about her ratting out Marya and Paul. Alaska sits on the bed next to Miles and he thinks of the number of layers of clothing and bedding that separate them. Alaska tries to convince Miles to stay at school over Thanksgiving break instead of going home so she has someone to spend time with over the break. Miles agrees and calls his parents, gaining their approval. 

When Chip learns that Miles intends to stay over break, he tells Miles that he thinks it would be unwise of Miles to try to enter into a relationship with Alaska. Miles realizes that Chip is right. Miles calls his parents to let them know that he has changed his mind, but he learns that they made travel plans since he wouldn’t be home. Miles confirms his plans to stay at school with Alaska and she tells him they get to spend the time at school together. Alaska says this is a relief to her because her home is full of ghosts.

Summary: 52 days before

When Miles’s school friends go home for Thanksgiving break, he and Alaska have the campus almost entirely to themselves. Alaska takes Miles to the soccer field and directs him to dig, leading Miles to strawberry wine she had buried. Although Miles is nervous about drinking and breaking campus rules, he and Alaska drink the wine as she reads a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Miles thinks about telling her he loves her, but Alaska interrupts his thoughts by bringing up the Simón Bolívar quote about the labyrinth. She tells Miles that the labyrinth is not about living or dying, but rather about getting out of suffering. She tells him that suffering is universal and it is the one thing all religions are worried about. 

Summary: 51 days before

Alaska yells at Miles’s door to wake him up and they sneak into the unoccupied rooms of the Weekday Warriors. Alaska encourages Miles to look through the rooms to discover what these guys love in order to figure out the best way to prank them. Alaska determines that they love their hair and contemplates how they can acquire industrial-strength blue dye. 

Summary: 49 days before

On Monday, the first real day of the Thanksgiving break, Miles and Alaska decide to look for porn in the unoccupied dorm rooms. They mostly find magazines, but when they find a video, they go to the school TV room. While they watch the video, Alaska tells Miles her thoughts about sex and complains about the objectification of women. Alaska suddenly gets tired and falls asleep. Miles puts his hand on her back and thinks about being close to her in a non-sexual way.

Summary: 47 days before

On the day before Thanksgiving, Miles joins Alaska in her room as she melts candles to make a wax volcano. After a morning of melting candles, Miles asks Alaska to drive him to McDonald’s for lunch. As they are walking to Alaska’s car, Chip drives up and invites the two to come home with him for Thanksgiving. Chip tells them that his mother told him to invite them and apologizes if the fact that they live in a small trailer makes them uncomfortable. Alaska responds that she is poor too. Miles is surprised that the trailer is actually so small that Chip has to sleep in a tent outside. Alaska and Miles stay the night and share the bed inside. Once again, Miles is aware of the few layers between them as they sleep. 

Summary: 46 days before

On Thanksgiving Day, Miles appreciates Chip’s mother’s cooking and thinks that the food is the best of any Thanksgiving he has ever had. They go around the table and each of them says what they are thankful for. Miles is thankful for friends on Thanksgiving. Alaska is thankful for her best Thanksgiving in a decade. Chip is thankful for his mother and his intelligence. Chip’s mother is thankful for both Chip and her practical needs being met. Miles falls asleep, content, on the ride back to the school.

Summary: 44 days before

Miles rides with Alaska to the liquor store where she buys cigarettes, wine, and vodka. On the way back, they tell each other knock-knock jokes. Later that evening, Alaska shocks Miles by showing up at his room sobbing and asking why she screws up everything. She sits with him on the couch and puts herself in his arms. Confused, Miles asks Alaska if she does things—such as exposing Marya and Paul—because she is scared. Alaska says being scared is no excuse. When Miles asks if she is scared because she doesn’t want to go home, she replies that she has no home. Miles tries to comfort her and tells her everything is okay. Alaska responds by telling Miles that he loves the bold adventurous version of her, but not the sullen version of her. 

Analysis: 58 days before–44 days before

The Thanksgiving break is an important part of Miles’s journey of self-discovery and maturation, as it offers Miles more opportunities to learn about his new friends and about himself. This period brings into focus an important theme of the novel: Miles learns more from his social life at Culver Creek than he does in his classes there. During this particular time, there are fewer pressures, with the Weekday Warriors gone and the Eagle being more lax about enforcing the rules. This gives Miles much more space and time to think about the wider world and himself. Miles shows he still has a lot of growing up to do when he chooses to stay in Culver Creek because of his crush on Alaska and then quickly changes his mind after his conversation with Chip. Basing his decisions on his friends’ needs and advice, and not on his own, again results in negative consequences for Miles when his parents make other plans and he feels homesick. At least in this instance, Miles is aware of his mistake, a sign that he may be beginning to learn.

Ironically, by learning more about Chip and Alaska, Miles learns more about himself and this in turn helps him to grow. The differences and similarities between Miles and his friends give Miles some perspective on his own life and show him how lucky he is. The contrast between Miles’s parents, who spend Thanksgiving in a castle in England on a second honeymoon, and Chip’s mother, who lives in a dilapidated trailer, is stark. It shows that despite Miles’s dissatisfaction with his life back in Florida, he has an abundance of material support there. But his visit with Chip’s mother also shows Miles that what is even more important is emotional support and love, which Chip’s mother amply provides. Alaska, on the other hand, appears to derive no support from her family and avoids going home because her home is full of “ghosts.” This recalls and contrasts strongly with Miles’s earlier homesickness. Thus, as Miles rides back to Culver Creek with Alaska and Chip, he is content because he is more aware of his blessings. Learning about himself in this way is an important step along Miles’s journey of maturation. His perspective begins to change from dissatisfaction with a stagnant life to appreciation of a well-supported but more fulfilling one.

Miles continues to learn more about Alaska’s complex and intense personality, which deepens her personal mystery and foreshadows the dark events to come. Miles’s narration acknowledges that at the beginning of the break he is confused and annoyed by Alaska’s unpredictability. His complaint is that he doesn’t know why Alaska does the things she does, which is partly due to his knowing almost nothing about her family or her past. Alaska never directly tells Miles about these things, but over the break Miles gets glimpses and hints that she has a dark family history. Her explanation that she doesn’t go home for Thanksgiving because she is afraid of ghosts hints at death and fear. The possibility of a difficult past comes up again when Alaska discusses Simón Bolivar’s labyrinth quote. Alaska believes that the labyrinth is about suffering, revealing that suffering has been a big part of Alaska’s life. However, it is Alaska’s definition of suffering as “Doing wrong, and having wrong things happen to you” that is most revealing. Alaska’s definition here is somewhat cryptic, and notable for the phrase “doing wrong.” For Alaska, suffering is not only something that happens to you, but also something you bring upon yourself through your own choices and actions. This ties into Miles’s pattern of being the cause of his own problems. More importantly, all the talk about life and death and suffering, combined with Alaska’s unpredictability and reckless driving, foreshadows tragedy later in the story.