REVIEW – Looking for Alaska by John Green

Book Cover Image: Looking For Alaska by John Green

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!

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7 Responses to REVIEW – Looking for Alaska by John Green
  1. Ceri
    September 29, 2009 | 9:33 AM

    Oh, this is a fabulous review, Michelle. Really well written. I really really want to get my hands on some John Green books but, as I've said before, they don't get published in this country – will have to order online. I love John's YouTube channel with his brother. They're so funny!

  2. Michelle
    September 29, 2009 | 11:50 AM

    Thanks, Ceri! I'll have to check out his YouTube channel.

  3. stacybuckeye
    September 29, 2009 | 12:31 PM

    This has been on my radar awhile. Yours is the most recent in a string of excellent reviews for this book. Thanks for reminding me why it's on my list!

  4. Beth F
    September 30, 2009 | 1:55 PM

    I've had this on my MP3 player for a long time. Your review has made want to listen to it next (after my current audio).

  5. Michelle
    September 30, 2009 | 4:01 PM

    Thanks, Beth! It is a wonderful book. So powerful. I can't wait to hear what you think about it!

  6. Stephanie
    October 1, 2009 | 10:58 AM

    Good lord, I'm so behind on my blog reading. Sorry for the late comment, but I had to make one. Your review of this book is totally excellent. And I'm so happy you liked it!! So many times I hate recommending books because I'm afraid the reader isn't going to like it (or love it) the way I did. But this one is different. Such a great book. And so NOT pornographic!! In fact, I was in Borders the other day. A mom was there with her teenage son trying to pick out some books. I listened to them for awhile (ok, I eavesdropped!). Then I walked over to a shelf, picked up this book and gave it to him. I said, trust me. You'll like it. They bought it!! So, John Green, I think you owe me one!

  7. Michelle
    October 1, 2009 | 11:19 AM

    Stephanie – Over the years I have learned to trust any recommendation you can give. Our tastes are so similar that I know if you like it, I am too! I am thrilled that you passed this one along to the parent/teenage son at Borders. It's such a powerful book and makes some amazing comments about life. I'm definitely glad I read it!

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