Sunday, September 19, 2010

Banned/Challenged Book: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Publisher: Speak (Imprint of Penguin)
Paperback, 221 pages
Date Published: Originally on March 3, 2005

Description (Taken from Goodreads):
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 (Francois 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.
Was part of 11th grade English curriculum in Depew, NY but challenged due to graphic language and sexual content. The book remained a part of the curriculum (YAY!). Source
Also, listed it as an ALA Porn Pusher...yeah, a porn pusher because of the sexually inappropriate material (I agree it isn't appropriate for 12 year olds, but it's marketed as 14+). You can read that entire explanation straight from the source -
Hype is a hard thing for any book to live up to and being beloved by so many only means that there will be even more people that will hate it. I’m happy to say that Looking for Alaska lives up to all the hype and beloved-ness that I’ve heard about it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it will become a beloved book of my own.

Having only read one other book by Green (Will Grayson, Will Grayson) and only hearing about his incredible everything from others, I didn’t really know what to expect from this book.

It starts off with a BEFORE, so clearly there will be an AFTER and I could only imagine that AFTER occurs through some traumatic and life-changing event. I was right. The BEFORE is all about Miles, affectionately known as Pudge for his ironically gawky frame. Miles ventures to Culver Creek boarding school in search of what poet Francois Rabelais calls “the Great Perhaps.” His junior year at a new boarding school begins with new potential friends and a life unlike any he’s ever known.

Green has this unmistakable ability to create vivacious and unforgettable characters. Miles’ obsession with last words is morbid, but curiously interesting. His view on life and friendship and all the important things kept me reading. Miles’ scrawniness and ‘go with the flow’ attitude are starkly contrasted by his short, but in your face, brash roommate Chip aka the Colonel. The Colonel is easy to dislike at times, but he’s really a good guy under the surface. And Alaska. There is so much that can be said about Alaska. At times, I hated her. She’s selfish and manipulative, but she’s so enigmatic that it’s hard not to be drawn to her.

Miles’ life at Culver Creek is full of disobeying the rules and having friends for the first time, but all good things must come to an end. The AFTER is so different from the BEFORE. BEFORE was raucously amusing and snarky and sarcastic. It was all cigarettes, booze, laughter, and first blow jobs with a building seriousness about the hardships that life throws at us. The AFTER is about mourning and anger and guilt. It’s about death and suffering, but maybe the Great Perhaps as well. Green puts his characters through the wringer, but they still journey and fight for something more. For something better.

Everything about Looking for Alaska had me hooked. The characters were vivid and engaging, the plot moved fast, but was always interesting, and the nuances about last words and religion and death all tied together made a beautifully moving and realistic portrait of a young man living, loving, and learning that there is something to look forward to in life: It’s life and hope and friendship and the promise of things to come in both life and death. This book was more than I had imagined and I’ll read it again and again.

As for banning, there is a lot of explicit language, sex, underage smoking, drinking, etc. but the book is not meant for children. It’s intended audience is teenagers and those 14+. The story is incredibly well-written and real. In my opinion, it’s a tragedy to keep this story from libraries and schools because it could inspire and change the lives of the young people who read it. John Green isn’t promoting deviant behavior. He’s showing us what already exists, but more importantly, he’s showing us that there is always hope and life does go on.

Opening line: The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party. ~ pg. 3

Favorite line: There comes a time when we realize that our parents cannot save themselves or save us, that everyone who wades through time eventually gets dragged out to sea by the undertow – that, in short, we are all going. ~ pg. 120
And in response to the whole Looking for Alaska is pornography thing, John Green made a vlog about it (Please note that this is from 2008, so no letters or emails need be sent about the issue. It's already been resolved)
 *This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.


kimmyblair said...

I found your blog over at Steph Su Reads. I'm so glad you choose to read Looking For Alaska! I LOVED this book! It's sad to see books like this getting banned or challenged. I would totally suggest checking out more of Green's books as he is one of my favorite authors.

SafeLibraries said...

Thanks for linking my site. John Green's book is not pornography. Read my whole page to get the true picture.

Further, LFA has never been banned, though it has been challenged. The last book banned in the USA was Fanny Hill, last banned in 1963.

And I liked LFA a lot.

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

kimmybair - I will be reading more and more of John Green's books because I love his writing style and his characters voices. Thanks for stopping by!

SafeLibraries - I appreciate you taking the time to comment and I did read the entire page, so I understand that you never said it was pornography. But listed it on a page that was categorized as a 'porn pusher' somewhat implies the same thing. I hope LFA never does get banned because it is both an enjoyable read and completely realistic. It's a book that should be read.

Jessi E. said...

Wow! That's very powerful! :)

SafeLibraries said...

Take a look at this YouTube:

"Looking For Alaska is NOT Porn"

I think you'll like it.

Joseph said...

There are many supporters of the book among teachers, administrators, librarians, and the school board in Depew.

Kitchen Benchtops

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