Thursday, May 28, 2009

'Looking for Alaska'

by John Green
Fiction/YA, 2005
Speak (Penguin), trade pb, 228 p.
Winner of the Printz Award, 2006
before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” [Francois Rabelais, poet] even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, 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, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

after. Nothing is ever the same.
John Green has been getting a lot of blog love lately so I had to try one of his books for myself, and Looking for Alaska seemed like a good place to start.

One of the things I liked most about the story was that John Green never shied away from staying true to the characters, which seemed very authentic, and their true voices. Even if it means that his book has been challenged for its use of “graphic language and sexual content” as a result. OK, I know that not all do, but really, who ever thinks that teens don’t think or talk about sex, or swear, must be living in denial! The characters in the story seemed like pretty typical teenagers, and I may not have liked or agreed with everything they did, but I enjoyed getting to know them. And isn’t a part of growing up about making mistakes and learning from them?

I have to say that I wasn’t terribly surprised by the pivotal event in the middle of the story though, and I also thought it took them quite a while to figure out the obvious reason behind it. Perhaps I’m missing the point though and the friends (or the plot?) simply needed that time to come to terms with what happened. Regardless, I still thought this was a well-written, and enjoyable story. As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t read a lot of Printz winners but I do think this one is deserving of recognition as a coming-of-age story and for its honest look at how teens cope with tragedy and loss. Perhaps not surprisingly, it reminded me of the wonderful graphic novel, Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, that I read last month.

Final verdict: Fun characters, and a touching story about growing up.

John Green's website
Watch a great video of John Green on his book being called "pornography".

First sentence: 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.

Buy this book at: Amazon | | | The Book Depository

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#32 for 2009, Book Awards II Challenge, Dewey's Books Reading Challenge, Herding Cats II Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
The Written World
things mean a lot
Stella Matutina
Fluttering Butterflies
Semicolon --> John Green responds
an adventure in reading
where troubles melt like lemon drops
Book Gazing
Fizzy Thoughts
nothing of importance
If you've reviewed this title too, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. So it sounds like your a little bit mixed on your feelings on this one. I haven't read any Green books, but I've always thought I'd start with this one since it has gotten so many rave reviews. I really need to look for Skim, too!

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I could more or less guess what was going to happen too, but it still really hit me when it did. And wow, it reminded you of Skim! Must get my hands on Skim.

  3. I read this book first of his books, too! I am glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I rated it the same as you, Tanabata. Although, I was surprised by the content, but I didn't hold it against him. :)

  5. Glad you enjoyed it (although as I'm a big Alaska fangirl now I wish you'd lurved it). I read a spolier for the big event and I wish I'd got to the book unscathed now as I'll never know how obvious I would have found it now. Happy reading.

  6. Trish - Yes, a little bit mixed I guess. I did like it, and do think it's worth reading, but I didn't completely love it either.

    Nymeth - For some reason it just didn't have the emotional impact for me that I think it could have. And yes, you definitely should get Skim! I totally think you'd love it.

    Kailana - So which one of his books should I try next?

    Joy - The content didn't really bother me, just that elusive "something" that kept me from really engaging with the story.

    Jodie - Alaska was a great character! I don't know why I didn't connect with it more than I did. I wanted to! It was still a good read though and I will try his other stuff sometime.


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