Looking for Alaska by John Green

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Looking for Alaska by John Green ISBN: 978-0142402511, Speak; Reprint edition (December 28, 2006)

Plot Summary:

Sixteen year old Miles Halter is bored with his life and with having no friends. He convinces his parents to let him attend Culver Creek High School, his dad’s old alma mata, in search of the Great Perhaps. When he arrives, Culver Creek is like nothing he had expected. There is no air conditioning, which is murder in the Southern climate, and the school is divided into those who stay all term long and the weekend warriors who go home on the weekend. After a dangerous prank is played on him, Miles realizes that he is in the middle of a feud between the two groups simply by virtue of having hung around his roommate, the Colonel, on his first day.  The Colonel introduces him to his friends, one of whom is a beautiful girl named Alaska. Alaska is impulsive and fun to be around…and she also has a boyfriend. When tragedy strikes, those that are left behind are left wondering if you can ever really know someone.

Critical Evaluation: 

Like all John Green books, this one is beautifully written, and full of deeper meanings. The characters feel intensely real and teens will be able to relate to the problems that they face. As Miles gets to know the others, deeper complexities to the characters are revealed. The character Alaska is truly heart-wrenching. At first Alaska seems to be simply an impulsive, fun girl who loves to play pranks. Although Miles is in love with her, he soon realizes that she not perfect and is occasionally “a bitch.” We later learn that there is a reason that Alaska is so impulsive. The theme of forgiveness, both for one’s own actions and the actions of others is heavily used towards the end of the novel. Finally the reader arrives at a picture of Alaska and her motivations that is more or less complete, but that has been arrived at partly by supposition. The reader is left pondering questions about what really happened but realizes that there would be no real way to answer the questions that have been posed. 

Information about the author:

John Green is a New York Times bestselling author who has received numerous awards, including both the Printz Medal and a Printz Honor. John is also the cocreator (with his brother, Hank) of the popular video blog Brotherhood 2.0, which has been watched more than 30 million times by Nerdfighter fans all over the globe. John Green lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Reader’s Annotation:

Miles Halter has decided to attend a private boarding school in his quest for the Great Perhaps. Then he meets Alaska.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

How well do you think you know your friends.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 8 and up

Challenge Issues:

Language, sexual situations, underage smoking and drinking, suicide.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide them with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

This book was the winner of the Michael L. Printz Award.

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