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Banned Books Week review of:

LOOKING FOR ALASKA

by John Green

Author’s Website: www.sparksflyup.com

If you Google the name of author John Green, you will undoubtedly find myriad references to his first novel, Looking for Alaska, which won the Michael L. Printz Award, among numerous other accolades that I’m too lazy to mention (and the Printz is the one that matters because it’s the one that shows up with the big, shiny medal on the book’s cover). However, the book has also gained notoriety due to the controversy that arose when teachers at Depew High School in New York decided to teach the book as part of an 11th grade English class. If you’re curious about the details, I’ll let John explain them to you himself; suffice it to say that I am beginning my reviews with this book because it is a powerful story, and one told with amazing emotional honesty. I have a great deal of respect for John Green’s writing—his characters are funny, acerbic, silly, stupid, and so utterly believable that I have to love them because I honestly knew kids like that in high school. Unlike some YA authors (whose books you will never see reviewed here because they are not good books), Green does not condescend to teenagers, and manages to color them with all the foibles of adolescence while simultaneously giving them due credit for their perceptiveness and depth of feeling. Looking For Alaska, while not my favorite of his three books, is nevertheless well-worth reading (and I’ll get around to reviewing my favorite one soon, I promise!).

Summary:

Miles Halter’s life is utterly boring: he has no friends at school, and his only real interest in life is reading biographies and memorizing famous last words. Thus it is that, inspired by the final words of French writer François Rabelais (“I go to seek a Great Perhaps”), Miles finds himself heading off to the hallowed halls of Culver Creek Boarding School in search of something more. It is at Culver Creek that Miles meets the gorgeous, cheeky, brilliant, sexy, screwed-up, and fascinating Alaska Young who lives just down the hall. But Miles’ life at Culver Creek is a countdown to a terrible event that will turn this year of new experiences upside down, and afterwards, nothing will ever, ever be the same again.

I would recommend this book for readers 15 and up, mostly due to language and sexual content (the latter being the main reason it was objected to at Depew High School). However, I certainly would not discourage mature 13/14-year olds from reading it if they felt comfortable with the content—the characters are high-schoolers, and many of their antics and experiences are typical enough that most teens will be able to relate on some level.

If you have any questions about this book, feel free to post a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP. In the meantime, happy reading!

Best wishes,

-Madeline

“Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.”
-George Bernard Shaw

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