Everyone at Culver Creek, including Miles and Alaska, go home for Christmas break. Miles receives “grown-up gifts” like a nice watch and a new wallet. He spends most of the break studying. His parents feel guilty about not spending Thanksgiving with him and apologize repeatedly. He goes back to school thankful that he has a family.
Summary: 8 days before
On the first day back from Christmas break, Miles and Alaska sit on the couch in the boys’ room while Chip plays video games. Alaska begins talking about having a pre-prank as well as a regular prank to get back at the Weekday Warriors. Alaska and Chip explain to Miles that a pre-prank will make the other boys not expect the actual prank. They tell him the three of them along with Takumi and Lara will meet at a barn on campus that weekend to pull off the prank. Chip and Alaska talk about their plans but they don’t give Miles any details, which Miles resents.
Summary: 4 days before
Chip and Alaska plan the prank, but Chip will only tell Miles that the prank is to be called “Barn Night” and that he should pack for a couple days. While they are planning, Miles uses the time to study for his exams and write his religion paper. For the paper, Miles writes that religions talk about the afterlife because people cannot bear to believe that there is nothing after death.
Summary: 3 days before
On the Friday after finals, Miles packs his bag for the Barn Night prank. Chip convinces the Eagle that Miles and Takumi are going to his home over the weekend as a cover for their absence from the campus. They meet with Alaska and Lara at the barn to go over the three-part prank, which will include lighting fireworks to distract the Eagle, putting blue dye in the Weekday Warriors’ hair products, and sneaking onto the Eagle’s computer to send out fake bad grade reports to the Weekday Warriors’ parents.
Miles and Takumi are given the task of setting off a series of fireworks in planned locations. They start with an ignition near the Eagle’s house, and again at set times as they lead the Eagle deeper into the woods. They make it through the woods despite Miles getting bit by a swan. When they arrive back at the barn, they find Lara there. Chip and Alaska arrive shortly afterward. Chip is angry that Alaska had sent fake grade reports to more students than planned. He worries that this will make it easier for them to be caught, but Alaska assures him it will be fine. Miles observes that Alaska appears to be more bitter than the rest of them.
Summary: 2 days before
Miles, Alaska, Chip, Takumi, and Lara wake up in the barn and spend the day there hiding out since they are all supposed to be off campus. As the day progresses, they begin drinking. Alaska makes up a drinking game where they take turns telling stories about the best and worst days of their lives. The best storyteller doesn’t take a drink.
The game is fairly lighthearted until Alaska tells the story of her worst day. Her best day was January 9, 1997. She was eight years old and went with her mother to the zoo. Her worst day was the following day, when her mother collapsed from a brain aneurysm and Alaska did not call for help because she thought her mother was sleeping. Then her father came home and blamed her for her mother’s death. After that revelation, they continue drinking and joking until they are sick. Miles lies down in his sleeping bag next to Lara and they begin holding hands and kissing. Miles asks Lara if she wants to be his girlfriend and she says that she does.
Summary: 1 day before
Miles, Alaska, Chip, Takumi, and Lara wake up in the barn hungover and get ready to go back to their dorms to complete the fictional story of all five of them being away for the weekend. They check in with the Eagle to show him that they have returned and then go to their rooms to sleep off their hangovers.
Summary: the last day
Kevin, one of the Weekday Warriors with blue hair due to their prank, visits Chip and Miles’s dorm to ask for a truce. Chip declines the offer. Miles spends the afternoon with Lara and they make out since they find that they don’t have much to talk about. Lara initiates a discussion about sex, and after some unsuccessful efforts to engage in a specific sexual act, they realize that neither of them possesses the experience or knowledge required for it. Perplexed, they decide to consult with Alaska, and after getting her advice they go back to Lara’s room and try again—this time successfully. Afterward they are embarrassed and decide to study, but Miles changes his mind and leaves.
Miles spends the evening with Chip and Alaska in her room. Chip and Alaska drink but Miles abstains. Miles asks Alaska about her white tulips and she informs him it is her anniversary with Jake. Alaska outdrinks Chip and eventually asks Miles to play truth or dare. Chip, tired, watches as they play. Alaska dares Miles to hook up with her and they make out. Alaska tells Miles she is tired and wants to sleep. Before she falls asleep on the bed, she tells him what they were doing is to be continued. Miles tells her he loves her, but she is already asleep. Later that night, Alaska leaves the room then quickly comes back in. Her frantic return wakes up Miles and Chip, and she yells that she forgot something and she has to leave. Confused about what Alaska forgot and aware that she is drunk, Miles and Chip set off fireworks to distract the Eagle from seeing or hearing Alaska drive away. Afterward, Miles and Chip go back to their room and sleep.
Analysis: christmas–the last day
The events surrounding the Barn Night Prank highlight another important theme in the novel: the meaning of loyal friendship. It is not clear from his behavior that Miles has an opinion about what it means to be a good friend, or whether he even considers the question at all. He is mostly concerned with simply having friends and this causes him to overlook problematic and even dangerous behavior from them. The Barn Night experience is a bonding one for the whole group but is especially important for Miles because it finally makes him feel like he really belongs. He has let go of any lingering concern about what his teachers and parents might think of him and is basking in the contentment of belonging. So when Alaska lights up a cigarette in a barn full of hay, Miles is alarmed but doesn’t say anything for fear of risking his friendship with her. With this incident, the immature Miles reveals that he does not yet understand what it truly means to be a good friend.
Takumi, on the other hand, shows he has a much better understanding of what it means to be a good friend. Takumi has already exhibited this understanding, having thoughtfully taken Miles aside in a previous chapter to tell him the truth about Alaska ratting out Marya. Even though Takumi knew that Alaska would not be happy with him for doing it, and it might damage Miles’s relationship with her, Takumi also knew it was best for Miles to have the information. Similarly, when Takumi steps up and promises that he will take the blame for the Barn Night Prank, he demonstrates that he cares about his friends and understands what they have to lose. Takumi’s sacrifice shows that loyalty is about more than not ratting and getting revenge; it is also about understanding and acting in the best interest of one’s friends. Takumi represents a more mature mind whose conclusions about friendship and loyalty are highly developed, as opposed to Chip’s simplistic edicts of “don’t rat” and “get revenge.”
The question of what it means to be a good friend has crucial implications for Alaska, as her reckless behavior and her friends’ enabling drive the action toward the climax of the novel. During the Barn Night Prank, Alaska recklessly puts the plan in jeopardy by sending too many fake grade reports and later jeopardizes the group’s physical safety by smoking in the barn. This reveals Alaska herself to be a poor friend, but she also proves to be a sympathetic character, as revelations about her past help to explain her recklessness and spontaneity. Miles’s observation that Alaska’s past has caused her to be impulsive is insightful, but it does not change his enabling her reckless behavior. When Miles and Chip choose to enable Alaska’s drunken, late-night escape from campus, they think they are being good friends. Far from it, they have actually contributed to tragedy and misery. This is the moment in which the teenagers have taken the idea of loyalty too far, with devastating and irreversible consequences. As a result, Miles and Chip will have to confront their values and own their complicity in the tragedy they have just enabled.