Miles asks Alaska about her name. She explains that when she was born, her parents couldn’t decide on a name for her, so they called her “Mary” until she was old enough to choose one for herself. On her seventh birthday, she spent the day looking at a globe. At first she chose “Chad,” but when she found out that that was a boy’s name, she picked Alaska because it was big and as far away from Alabama as possible. Alaska explains that at the time she wanted to go out into the world and do big things, but she loves her name even more now that she knows that it comes from an Aleut word that means “that which the sea breaks against.”
Alaska is someone who is very much in control of her identity, and the fact that she chose her own name reflects that. Whether or not Alaska is truly as big and strong and important as she wants to be, she projects herself as that person, and consequently, others see her that way. However, while being something the waves break against could be interpreted as being strong, it could also be read as being in pain.
Alaska talks to Miles about how difficult it’s going to be to get out of her hometown of Vine Station, Alabama. She tells him about how she wants to teach disabled children. Miles moves in to kiss her, but she interrupts him to say that she doesn’t want to be one of those people who just talks about the future, because she thinks that only ever thinking about the future is “a kind of nostalgia.” To Alaska, thinking about the future is a way of avoiding the present, particularly because people never end up doing the things they think about. Miles silently disagrees; he never would have come to Culver Creek if he hadn’t imagined it first. Miles tells Alaska that sometimes he doesn’t understand her, and she responds that “that’s the point.”
Miles and Alaska have very different conceptions of the future. For Miles, the future is exciting and he thinks about it all the time. To Alaska, however, thinking about the future too much is indulgent. She has no hope for her own future, and it seems foolish to her to imagine things she has no confidence will happen. The fact that Alaska admits to making herself seem mysterious on purpose forces the reader to wonder what she is concealing and who she really is. Part of her “mystery” is that she is sometimes upfront about the mysteriousness itself.