The next day, the group spends the morning hanging out and rapping. They eventually start drinking, and Alaska decides that they are going to play a drinking game she has just made up called Best Day/Worst Day. Everyone tells the story of their best day ever and whoever has the best story doesn’t have to drink. Then everyone talks about their worst day and the worst story doesn’t have to drink. This repeats to everyone’s second best and worst day, and so on. Alaska is confident that she will win.
When Alaska creates Best Day/Worst Day, she clearly has some intention of revealing parts of her past. Miles will soon learn that her worst day is a dramatic one, but rather than simply tell Miles or her other friends about what happened, Alaska has to present it in a dramatic and competitive way. In keeping with the meaning of her name, she makes herself big.
Miles says that his best day is today. He tells them that he woke up next to a beautiful “Hungarian” girl and hung out with his friends and everything was perfect. Lara is happy that Miles thinks she’s pretty but reminds him that she is Romanian. Alaska says her story will beat Miles’ answer: on January 9, 1997, she and her mom went to the zoo and her mom liked the bears and she liked the monkeys. The Colonel says that this isn’t a good enough story. Miles silently agrees, although he knows that Alaska has been intentionally vague to make herself seem more mysterious.
While the story Alaska tells likely represents her true best day, she tells the story in a way that does not allow anyone else to appreciate or access it. She offers no explanation as to why this was her best day, but has insisted that her best day is better than anyone else’s. Miles knows that Alaska is withholding information to make herself more intriguing, but the fact that Miles is aware of this manipulation suggests that her efforts are not necessarily working.
Lara’s best day was the day she moved from Romania to America. Her parents couldn’t speak English and they needed her to help them fill out forms and figure things out. It was the first day she felt like a grownup. Takumi’s favorite day was when he lost his virginity, but he declines to tell that story to the group. The Colonel says that his best day is in the future, when he can buy his mom a giant house in the middle of Mountain Brook, where all of the Weekday Warriors live, as a thank you for being his mom and letting him come to Culver Creek.
At this point, everyone else’s best days seem truly significant, and it isn’t clear why Alaska’s best day was a random visit to the zoo. Then again, this was not a random day, because Alaska remembers the exact date. But while Alaska dwells in the distant past, the Colonel thinks about the future. The fact that his best day involves buying his mother a house suggests that he is, deep down, a very generous person.
The group decides that the Colonel’s story wins and everyone else drinks. The Colonel’s worst day was when his father left. He had cheated on his mom and she kicked him out and he never came back. The Colonel hasn’t heard from him since. Miles can’t top this, but tells his story about the time when a boy in his grade peed all over Miles’ gym clothes and the gym coach told him that if he didn’t wear his uniform, he’d fail the class. He didn’t want to fail, so he had to wear them while everyone whispered about him behind his back. Miles says that after that, he stopped caring about having any friends at school.
Just as the Colonel’s memories of his father’s abuse motivate him to improve his mother’s life, so Miles is motivated to make friends at Culver Creek by the memory of having none in Florida. The fact that he chose to be humiliated into wearing his gym clothes rather than to get a bad grade testifies to how much Miles used to value (and likely still values) external validation.
Lara’s worst day was the same as her best day—she lost her childhood because all of a sudden she had to be responsible for the things her parents could no longer do. Miles realizes that Lara is quiet like he is and they finally have something in common. He wants to kiss her and is no longer embarrassed about throwing up on her.
This is the first time that Miles feels anything for Lara, even though Alaska picked her out to be his girlfriend months ago. Miles sees himself as quiet and can appreciate the trait in Lara, but it does not really seem like theirs would be a lasting relationship.
Takumi’s worst day was when his grandmother died two days before he was supposed to go to Japan to visit her. He had never met her before, and instead of spending the summer with her, he only got to see her as she was being lifted onto her Buddhist funeral pyre. Miles decides to smoke a cigarette even though he knows it’s dumb to smoke in such a flammable environment.
The more time Miles spends around Alaska, the more reckless he becomes. The difference between Miles and Alaska, however, is that the well-being of the other people in the room occurs to Miles, while Alaska is entirely self-absorbed.
Alaska’s worst day was the day after her best day. She came home from school and started doing her homework when she heard her mom screaming. She found her lying on the floor having what she later learned was a seizure. In the moment, Alaska froze and sat with her mom until she stopped moving. Alaska thought she had just fallen asleep, but when her dad got home, he yelled at her for not calling 911. She had had an aneurysm and died.
Alaska’s references to Thanksgiving being bad for the last decade and the ghosts that haunt her home make sense in the context of her mother’s death. Up until now, however, Alaska has only dropped mysterious hints about what occurred, instead of giving anyone the full story. She is being dramatic here, but also finally opening up to her friends and being honest.
The group is stunned because no one knew that Alaska’s mother was dead. Alaska talks about how her dad blames her for her mother’s death, and everyone tells her that she was too young to have known what to do and that it’s not her fault. Miles thinks back to when Alaska said that her mother doesn’t smoke anymore and now understands what she meant. Everyone is quiet for a long time and Miles remembers the last words of President William McKinley. Just before he died, his wife yelled that she wanted to go with him. His last words were, “We are all going.”
Alaska’s mother’s mortality makes Miles think of the fragility of all human life, despite the fact that he never knew Mrs. Young. Her death serves as a memento mori, or warning that everyone is mortal, and it foreshadows the death that is soon to come. Alaska clearly holds herself responsible for her mother’s death, even though her friends are certain that she was too young to have been able to handle what was happening.
Miles now understands that this “was the central moment of Alaska’s life.” He understands why she cried over Thanksgiving break about messing everything up. He realizes that Alaska must be haunted by the fact that she froze at that moment and must spend a great deal of her life feeling powerless. Miles speculates that this is why Alaska behaves so impulsively—she is afraid of freezing. No one ever speaks to Alaska about the story again.
While the Colonel and Miles are both defined by their memories of experiences before they arrived at Culver Creek, these memories are not the single most important events in their lives. Alaska, on the other hand, is fundamentally defined by her memory of her mother’s death and her own role in it.
Later that night, Miles decides to make a move on Lara and eventually ends up climbing into her sleeping bag and making out with her. He isn’t very experienced, so he has some trouble with kissing, but Lara tells him that it’s cute. Miles asks her to be his girlfriend and she agrees.
Miles is able to fairly seamlessly transition from hearing about Alaska’s mother’s death to making out with Lara because death seems like an impossibility at his age. He does not yet have to take it seriously.