Tuesday, September 11, 2007

looking for alaska by John Green

As I’ve said before, there are books that are easy to review and describe, and then there are books that are more difficult. Sometimes I think it’s easier to talk about books you don’t like because there are usually specific things about a book that cause you not to like it.

That said, I’m not sure exactly how to talk about looking for alaska. John Green has written a coming of age story that reminds me of the ones I read for high school literature classes. It is not an easy story to read, but it is beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down.

Miles Halter is in the eleventh grade and he’s going off to boarding school. His life in Florida has been a bust – he has no friends, no life really at all – and he’s in search of the “Great Perhaps.” At school he meets his roommate, nicknamed Colonel, and Alaska Young, a beautiful, tormented girl who he immediately falls in love with but who has a long-distance boyfriend she never cheats on.

Although classes are harder than Miles expects, he also has a social life for the first time ever. The Colonel and Alaska teach Miles to have fun, and not through what we as adults would consider healthy means. They believe in smoking, in heavy drinking, and in elaborate pranks that get back at those they do not like (I found the pranks to be original and very funny). Things are good, and then . . .

It is easy to see why looking for alaska won the Printz Award for the Best Young Adult Book of 2006. In many ways it is a classic coming of age novel, yet it is also very fresh. It is also for mature readers. The language and sex in some scenes make it R-rated so I would recommend it for eleventh and twelfth graders.

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