Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
by John Green

Genre:  Young Adult
Pages:  256
Published:  12/14/08 by Penguin Group
Format:  ebook

My rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars

I first read this book about four years ago. It was my first John Green book, and at the time, I had no clue who he was. Since then, I have read most of John Green's other books and have become a huge fan. So I wanted to go back and re-read Alaska to see how I felt about it four years later.

Looking for Alaska follows what seems to be a fairly typical John Green formula (very similar to Papertowns and An Abundance of Katherines, at least): Nerdy boy (Miles "Pudge" Halter) falls for a wild, unpredictable, unattainable girl (Alaska Young) while seeking out answers to important life questions.

I don't think John Green's novels became popular because they tell the most original stories. It is the way that he writes those stories that makes them so great. I love his dialogue (which some claim is unrealistic for teenagers, but I still love it), his witty humor, and his intelligent approach to dealing with life's big questions. It is just so much fun to read a John Green book...he makes you laugh, he makes you cry, he makes you think! There is definitely a level of intelligence in his books that you don't find in a lot of young adult fiction, and I appreciate that.

My original comments after reading this book four years ago were: "I liked it, but I don't feel comfortable recommending it to teenagers." I've probably changed my opinion on this a little over the last four years. There is a lot of sex, drinking and smoking in this book. Not behavior that I would consider appropriate for teenagers.

I do admit that I am a bit naive about the kinds of things teenagers do these days. The more I read young adult fiction, the more I come to realize this. My guess is that John Green's depiction here is a pretty realistic portrayal of many (but definitely not all) teenagers. I also think these characters were realistic because they were often obnoxious and dramatic and unlikeable...again, I think that could describe many teenagers accurately at times! It's not easy being a teenager, and this story about teenagers trying (and sometimes failing) to figure out life should not be ignored completely due to its more mature content. It's not a book for kids or tweens, but I think a mature teenager can read and learn from it.

The bigger and more important purpose of this novel is answering this question, based on the last words of Simon Bolivar: "How will I ever escape this labyrinth?" This novel doesn't preach, and it doesn't tell you what you should think in the end. Instead, it becomes a thought provoking reflection on life and afterlife and God and religion and what it all means. And while the novel doesn't provide all the answers, it does leave you with a glimpse of hope and a desire to seek more answers. I think that honestly seeking these answers is extremely important for both teens and adults alike.

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