Saturday, December 24, 2011

Looking For Alaska

By John Green

Five Things I Like About Looking for Alaska:
1. Alaska’s “life library”
2. Boarding school
3. Pranking
4. Quotable quotes
5. Realistic romanticism

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of John Green, person and author. I’ve read Looking for Alaska before. But lately my copy has been making the rounds as I’ve been recommending it to uninitiated friends and family, and I started to feel a little sheepish about enthusiastically pressing my copy into other people’s hands while unable to rehash the finer details afterward. So I decided to reread it.

Miles “Pudge” Halter is a bit of a nonentity at his public high school in Florida. With no social life to speak of, the only things he’s got going for him are good grades and a penchant for memorizing the last words of famous people (pretty cool things, true, but not super satisfying to a 16-year-old). In order to seek the “Great Perhaps” that will hopefully add an air of mystery and/or excitement into his mundane existence, Pudge transfers to Culver Creek boarding school for his junior year. There, he meets the manic, alluring, inimitable Alaska Young. Alaska takes Miles by the hand and pulls him into her labyrinth, spins him around until he’s sick from dizziness, then leaves him there to find his way out alone, with nothing but inscrutable riddles of clues – “How will we ever get out of this labyrinth?” “Straight and fast” – to guide him (metaphorically speaking).

A fan of Young Adult literature, I will freely admit that the vast majority of books in the genre pander to the shallow side of young adult taste. Not John Green. John’s books appeal to the adult side of young adults; the side that’s starting to ask existential questions; the side that’s becoming disillusioned in a genuine way (not that angst-ridden “No one understands me” phase that so many teens seem to go through); the side that’s trying to make sense of a world unfiltered by the rosy lenses of childhood as they weather the transition from childlike naiveté to the realities of adulthood without losing hope or becoming wholly disenchanted. John Green introduces teens to the less idealistic adult world without being overly escapist – by introducing fantastical loopholes – or demoralizing – by painting a bleaker picture than necessary.

Conversation Starter: Have you ever had an Alaska in your life? What happened?

Books Read This Year: 94
Top 100 Progress: 48/100

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