Monday, June 16, 2008
Looking for Alaska- John Green
Without going into too much detail, I will say that recently a group of librarians gathered to discuss Looking for Alaska in terms of its appropriateness for teens, particularly those who participate in library sponsored Book Discussion Groups. (In case you are wondering, we unanimously agreed that it was not only appropriate, but quite a good choice for book discussion). This happens from time to time, and usually patron comment is the catalyst.
I first read Looking for Alaska in 2005 and loved it. Something about John Green's writing style really appeals to me. I reread Looking for Alaska for the book review committee and appreciated it just as much as I did in prior readings (full disclosure: I have read this book four times. I'm a dork, I know). In Looking for Alaska, we meet a group of quirky-intelligent teens who attend boarding school in the south. We follow Alaska, Pudge, the Colonel, and Takumi as they prank, party, learn, live, and basically discover who they are through their relationships with each other. Alaska is an emotionally challenged, chronically flawed, and impossibly charismatic girl who holds the rest of them in the palm of her hand. Although she does not narrate the novel, it is really her story told from the perspective of Pudge (who is predictably in love with her). When a tragically bad decision is made, and life still has to continue, Pudge and the rest of the crew discover that life is a beautiful damaged, but precious gift.
Recently, this book has been challenged in a few school districts in the south and east coast. Apparently some people don't like the cursing, drinking, smoking, drugs, sex, and frankly realistic conversations. According to a very entertaining website called Safe Libraries (which would be more appropriately named Conservatives for Censorship IMHO), there were 281 curse words (although they count pee as a curse word) and state there are 1.3 bad words on every page in this book. Also, they weren't crazy about the famous toothpaste scene when Alaska teaches the boys about... well... maybe you should just read it ;-) Anyway, John Green keeps a HILARIOUS weblog and posted a response to the Alaska book challenges:
Because of the reading level, I would recommend this book for older teens who like to read about intelligent teenagers, boarding school, coming of age, and realistic fiction. Some people have called this book this decade's Catcher in the Rye... so why don't you read it and see if you agree?