Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
No. of Pages: 221
First Released: 2005
Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): “Before. Miles ‘Pudge’ Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (François Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.”
Comments and Critiques: I became interested in this book thanks to a fabulous review by Stephanie at Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-a-holic. Her descriptions of the Before and the After were intriguing and made me want to find out what in the world she was discussing. Then, like any good reader, I discovered this book has been challenged and been called pornography for children (see my previous post) and I definitely had to find out what all the fuss is.
The fuss is well-deserved – and by fuss I mean the fact that this is a Michael L Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Mr. Green does an amazing job of building Pudge’s friendships with the Colonel and with Alaska, making them believable and relevant, no matter what the age of the reader. The countdown to The Event in the Before section only drives the reader’s curiosity, making one anxious out of anticipation and out of dread. The After section is heart-wrenching and surprising, while the reader is left watching in amazement as the characters grow and develop and truly become young adults.
Because it is Banned Book Week, there is some concern by others that this book is pornographic in nature. Specifically, the language is rough, the characters talk about sex, talk about having sex, and there are a couple of mild sex/make-out scenes in the book. They also smoke and drink, break curfew, flout the rules, and generally behave like most teenagers. Based on my research, Mr. Green’s target audience is high schoolers, meaning fourteen-year-olds and up. Considering the main characters are all old enough to drive, I’m not certain anyone younger than fourteen can truly relate to the characters. Is it offensive? To me, no, it is not offensive because I think the language and the behavior is fairly typical of most teenagers, which I believe was Mr. Green’s intent: using language and behavior that most teenagers use and engage in to drive home the points about life, the Great Perhaps, and the labyrinth of suffering.
This is, simply put, a stunning book. Equal parts friendship and self-discovery, it is a refreshing look at life and the choices we make in it. The labyrinth of suffering is something everyone should consider for themselves because the answer is as unique as the individual. The power of the book lies in the Before and After, and I am not about to ruin it for anyone. Suffice it to say that Mr. Green pulls no punches when it comes to human suffering and driving home his point that life truly is about the choices we make in it.
Most importantly, this message does not pertain to just teenagers on the brink of adulthood. We should all be considering our own answers to the labyrinth of suffering. We are never too old to explore the Great Perhaps, for that is how we solve the riddle of the labyrinth. This is well worth the read. I highly recommend this to anyone and everyone! Thanks to Stephanie for putting it on my radar screen!