Monday, December 12, 2011

Looking for Alaska [YA Book Review]

How I Found Looking for Alaska
I asked people for their favorites. I asked for what they deemed the best in current realistic young adult fiction.

One name kept creeping up: John Green, and paired with that name was, more often than not, his novel Looking for Alaska.

I put the name on my mental list. I planned on picking it up at the library when I made my trip on Friday. However, on Thursday, when Christmas shopping at Marshall's, I found it on the check out line. I couldn't believe it.

I decided I would treat myself to this one Christmas gift and start my YA Read-a-Thon one day earlier than I thought.

It didn't take long for me to understand why so many people provided this book  as one of their favorites.

My Summary
We meet Miles Halter, a soon-to-be junior in high school, sitting in his Florida living room waiting for his "school friends" to bid him good-bye as he readies for a dramatic shift in life; he is leaving for a boarding school in Alabama. Miles, an intelligent and well-read teen obsessed with "last lines," knows what his parents seem unable to admit - there will be no going away party, Miles does not have "school friends" that would invest that much time to come say good-bye.

This is part of the reason Miles has asked to go to boarding school. He is on a quest for what he calls "the Great Perhaps" as inspired by François Rabelais's last words ("I go to seek a Great Perhaps."). Miles doesn't want to wait until he dies to seek "the Great Perhaps" so he, instead, asks if he can attend the boarding school his father attended as a teen, Culiver Creek Boarding School.

As readers, we are taken on Miles's coming-of-age journey where he finds not only a "Great Perhaps," but also friendship, love, and himself, in a world so unlike the one he came from that he has no choice but to learn from nearly every single experience, person and class. In stark contrast to his Florida life, Miles, nicknamed "Pudge," finds himself in a close-knit groups of friends that share all facets of life with him. One of the friends Miles is especially taken with is Alaska Young, the girl in Culiver Creek that every guy wants, but realizes is too much to handle. Miles finds himself enraptured, in love and, as readers, we are captivated along with him.

As the group grows ever closer and the Miles/Alaska relationship grows more complicated, the entire school is given a shock that shakes even the headmaster to his core. Miles is left questioning who he has become, the importance of his studies, his "Great Perhaps," his love of Alaska and motivations of all of his new friends. It is this portion of the book that John Green entitles "after" which leads us to an extremely poignant conclusion that leaves readers reflecting on their one time invincibility, their unavoidable mortality and the beauty of forgiveness.

My Review

This was the first John Green book I have ever read. I was impressed by his fluidity with the language. By the time I had completed the novel's first paragraph, I was in awe about how much I could say about Miles already. Green conveyed character not only through descriptions, situations and dialogue, but also through an extremely strong voice.With this skill he breathed rich, diversified characteristics into the entire world of Looking for Alaska.

Add me to the throngs who will recommend -- no push -- anyone who asks, to read Looking for Alaska. I imagine some parents might be concerned with some of the topics that are brought to life within these pages, such as school-wide pranks and mischief, underage drinking and smoking, and sexual content, however, I feel, for one, that it is precisely these types of "kids behaving badly" activities that lift up Looking for Alaska to a point where one can honestly say, "Yep. That's exactly what kids - even smart ones - would be doing in a situation like this!" I think when your young adult chooses this book to read, it would be important to remember that he/she is a young adult, not a young child and, before YA books became all the rage, children in the YA age group often found their way to adult novels.

 Have you read Looking for Alaska (or any other John Green books)? 
What's your opinion?
How do you feel about subjects such as underage drinking and sexual content finding their way into YA novels?
What's your favorite coming-of-age novel? 

 This book was read and reviewed as part of my YA Read-a-Thon. This December I am reading as many real-life YA novels as I can in one month's time! Join in, check out the list of books that were recommended to me HERE. Or check into my YA Read-A-Thon Store to buy the books from

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