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407 of 431 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't do what I did...
...and read this book in one sitting. Okay, it's short and incredibly good, which makes it easy to bolt down. But then you are going to feel like an idiot for not savoring the pleasure, and you're going to be bleary as hell the next day (if you finish it at 4 in the morning, like I did).

This book deals with the Big Ones: suffering, loss, and grief, but it...
Published on March 30, 2005 by Richard Hurley

versus
135 of 163 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Fault in Paper Alaska
Edit: there be spoilers here.
Also, I wrote this a while ago, and it's really cute and amusing how my 18 year old self thought. Aw. (But I still agree with the main point of teen-me. Though I'm upping it to 3 stars.)

From all the hype, plus the fact that this is required reading for a lot of high schools, I figured that this would be the crown jewel of...
Published 15 months ago by X. October


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407 of 431 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't do what I did..., March 30, 2005
By 
Richard Hurley (Grass Valley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Looking For Alaska (Hardcover)
...and read this book in one sitting. Okay, it's short and incredibly good, which makes it easy to bolt down. But then you are going to feel like an idiot for not savoring the pleasure, and you're going to be bleary as hell the next day (if you finish it at 4 in the morning, like I did).

This book deals with the Big Ones: suffering, loss, and grief, but it does so with such compassion and humor that the net impact is uplifting. Even the principal turns out to be a human being. There are no cardboard cut-out characters here.

Be aware that the kids in this story do what kids actually do (smoke, drink, and have sex). If that bothers you, read it anyway. There are more important things in life than observing proprieties and pretending that bright kids aren't exploratory. You don't have to approve of these characters. It is enough to love them and learn from them.
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246 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Senior Perspective, March 25, 2005
By 
This review is from: Looking For Alaska (Hardcover)
Somewhere between searching for the secret to winning at Texas Holdem in Doyle Brunson's SUPER SYSTEM II, A COURSE IN POWER POKER, and envying a 101 year old lady boat captain in Jimmy Buffett's A SALTY PIECE OF LAND, I found John Green's Young Adult Novel, LOOKING FOR ALASKA.

I kept looking at the alluring cover of ALASKA on my night stand and decided that POWER POKER could wait and rushed through A SALTY PIECE.

If you have a child going to boarding school soon, goes there now or has gone there, as my son did, you must read LOOKING FOR ALASKA. If you want to understand the loneliness, happiness, mischief, joy, sorrow, sadness and a few other emotions of a teenager, you must read LOOKING FOR ALASKA. If you are convinced your teenager will not mature until much later, you better not read ALASKA. If you are concerned about the experiences that your teenager might have, do not read ALASKA. If you are a teenager, read this book!

Need help with a pair of Aces? Simple - see Doyle. Got Margaritaville on your mind? No problem - Jimmy is your man. But if you want to come of age with an extraordinarily endearing group of kids, read this book.

My son tells me it is being touted as Young Adult Fiction. I don't know about that. I can only tell you that at 64, I am a younger man for having read it.
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100 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant YA debut with an authentic voice about life lessons in a boarding school, March 3, 2006
By 
This review is from: Looking For Alaska (Hardcover)
Green's debut YA novel follows a year in the life of high school junior Miles Halter, a friendless Floridian who begged his parents to enroll him in the Culver Creek boarding school. Miles dreams of starting anew at his elite Alabama prep school, of finding Francois Rabelais's "The Great Perhaps." At school, he falls in with a prankster of a roommate, the Colonel, and the sassy, sexy, messed-up Alaska Young. For an unforgettable 128 days, Miles learns life lessons in love, loyalty, friendship, literature, and poetry, as well as experiences the thrill of a first girlfriend. When tragedy strikes Culver Creek, Miles is forced to undertake an even closer examination of his own character and relationship with his friends.

This is an outstanding coming-of-age novel that has already proved to be a favorite teen read. It doesn't resort to a cop out of a "happily ever after" ending, but the characters each seek closure on their own terms. The characters are well-drawn, witty, and full of individual quirks and spunk. Green even manages to bring in the reality of cigarettes and alcohol without a preachy or over-glorifying tone. This novel has won the Teen's Top 10 award as well as the Printz Award, and Green is well on his way to YA superstardom. I'm looking forward to his next novel.
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135 of 163 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Fault in Paper Alaska, January 17, 2013
Edit: there be spoilers here.
Also, I wrote this a while ago, and it's really cute and amusing how my 18 year old self thought. Aw. (But I still agree with the main point of teen-me. Though I'm upping it to 3 stars.)

From all the hype, plus the fact that this is required reading for a lot of high schools, I figured that this would be the crown jewel of John Green novels, the best of the best. But annoyingly, I discovered that from page one it was Paper Towns all over again. I love John Green because God, he is so awesome, but I was really frustrated with the repetitiveness of the same type of plot. I've read Paper Towns, Will Grayson Will Grayson, TFIOS, and now Looking for Alaska and they have all been basically the same book. They all follow the exact same formula:

1. A nerdy, slightly awkward girl/boy who believes in shutting up and staying quiet, usually with a slightly odd name (Miles, WIll Grayson, Hazel, Quentin) meets

2. a super sexy (but nonconventionally so) girl/guy who is also really really intelligent, who usually has a weird name (Alaska, Augustus, Margo) and weird smart-kid quirks and a spirit of adventure, who

3. Takes the protagonist on pranky fun high school adventures and forces them to be something more than an introspective shy awkward person and then

4. Runs away from home/dies leaving the protagonist to

5. Sit around coping with the loss and ultimately come up with big deep conclusions about the meaning of life so that the book can end

6. With a cliffhanger or unsatisfying conclusion.

Obviously there is some slight variation but all his novels more or less follow this general outline.

In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Tiny is the substitute for Margo/Alaska/Augustus since he drags the protagonist out of his shell and instigates most of the adventures.

In TFIOS most of the plot is centered around getting answers from Van Houten, but once again it is Augustus who instigates the plot and makes the action happen.

This repetitiveness is understandable because plot is after all really difficult to write. But come on, Green. Deviate a little. It's getting too old.

I know, Nerdfighteria. how can I criticize him? He is our God, our savior in a world of stupidity, a rock of intelligence to which to cling in an ocean of Jersey Shore and Kim Kardashians. I'm not being sarcastic. When I watch Vlogbrothers videos, specifically John's videos, I feel like somewhere in the world there is a community of people capable of critical thinking, and that even though everywhere you look in our society there are stupid people propped up as icons and stupid people trying to emulate them, there is still a vestige of sense out there, there is still a group of young people who have substance and pursue substance.

But because I love him, I have to be critical of this repetitive writing style. I wouldn't let my kid make Fs I'm not going to let my favorite vlogger write s***ty books. Not that this is a s***ty book. It's just a complete copy of another book. And all of his books could basically be glued together into one big, similar book.

Therefore I am officially going on record to say I did NOT enjoy looking for Alaska and I hope that in his next book Green writes about an exciting, interesting, outgoing, confident person who meets a shy nerdy awkward kid who flips their world on it's head and teaches them to be more introspective and shy and quiet, and no one dies or leaves, they just slowly just grow to dislike each other and treat each other more s***tily and then have an ugly breakup and go to separate colleges, like in real life.

Hey, it's a start.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK But Not As Amazing As Everyone Seems To Say, July 31, 2009
By 
Jennifer "Jenners" (Sicklerville, NJ, United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Looking For Alaska (Hardcover)
Story Overview

Miles Halter -- for all intents and purposes -- is a bit of a social misfit. He has few friends -- much to the chagrin of his doting parents. Feeling stifled and like an outsider in his Florida high school, he convinces his parents he wants to attend Culver Creek boarding school in Alabama (his father's alma mater). Although his parents aren't quite sure why he wants to leave, he explains it by sharing Rabelais's last words -- "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." (Miles's greatest eccentricity is that he "collects" people's last words.)

At Culver Creek, he is quickly befriended by his roommate Chip Martin (known on campus as The Colonel). A forceful personality who is one of the masterminds behind elaborate pranks, the Colonel includes Miles (now christened "Pudge") in his circle of friends -- which includes a Japanese exchange student named Takumi and an attractive girl named Alaska. The Colonel fills Pudge in on the social hierarchy of Culver Creek -- the boarders vs. the Weekend Warriors (the rich kids who go home on the weekend), how to outfox The Eagle (the stern headmaster), and how to camouflage smoking and hide liquor. The friends navigate the school year together -- weathering difficult classes, exploring their sexuality, planning pranks, and feuding with the Weekend Warriors.

Miles quickly falls into life at Culver Creek -- and into love with Alaska. Never having had a girlfriend, he finds Alaska fascinating. Not only is she beautiful, but she is a free spirit -- alternately fascinating and moody, friendly then standoffish. And he's not the only one with feelings for Alaska -- her captivating personality and good looks has more than one boy lusting after her. Although she has a boyfriend who she says she loves, that doesn't stop her from flirting and wrapping Miles around her little finger. But Alaska clearly has some troubles in her past that lead to emotional outbursts that confuse and frighten her friends.

After one particularly drunken night, a tragedy occurs that leaves the circle of friends rocked to their core. Amid the grief, confusion and guilt that follows, Miles and his friends look for answers to the mystery of Alaska and get a taste of what the Great Perhaps might hold.

My Thoughts

First off, a funny little story about how I got this book. I had been hearing about this book on a bunch of different book blogs and everyone kept raving about it so I thought "Well, I'll check it out." I put it on my wish list at Paperback Swap, and my wish was granted almost immediately. But when the book came, it appeared to be a travel book about the state of Alaska. "That's funny," I thought, "This sure doesn't seem like the book everyone was talking about." And it wasn't. I had the author wrong! I'd gotten Looking for Alaska by Peter Jenkins, which is indeed a book about traveling and living in the state of Alaska. So beware and don't make the mistake I did -- check the author's name closely!

Anyway, I eventually did get the right book. However, I wasn't as enthralled by it as other bloggers seem to be. In fact, the book didn't move me all that much. Perhaps this is because it is a Young Adult book, and I am anything but a Young Adult. (And just what does Young Adult mean anyway? Late teens/early twenties? Mid-teens? This is one of those categories I wasn't aware of until I started blogging, and I'm a little confused about exactly what demographic these books are supposed to be for.) However, I'm not completely immune to all Young Adult books -- after all, I was sucked into the Twilight saga as quickly and completely as any young adult. (Embarrassing? Yes, but I don't make apologies.) Looking for Alaska even won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association. Surely there must be something I am missing.

Much of my problem was I just didn't fall in love with the characters. It felt forced to me that Miles collected last words -- perhaps only a device to make him somewhat interesting? Alaska struck me as a bit unstable and a tease. The Colonel was the most interesting character to me -- but only when forced to choose among the main cast of characters. Takumi barely registers except for the role he plays in the end. So the tragedy at the core of the book didn't really resonate with me -- I didn't feel the grief and agony because I just didn't care all that much.

Another problem for me was that you know something big is coming so you're somewhat prepared for it. The first part of the book (Before) is a countdown (one hundred thirty six days before, eighty days before, one day before). Then the big tragedy occurs. Then the book starts counting upwards (one day after, thirty days after). To me, this device led me to anticipate what was coming so it didn't quite have the emotional impact it might have had if I had been surprised.

I did try to view this book as a young adult might have in order to give a more impartial review, but I think there have been better books that deal with this same basic topic (Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson comes to mind -- although that might be geared to a much younger set of readers.) The thing is: This book just didn't do it for me. Although the writing is fine, I was just not drawn into the book in a way that made it memorable for me.

My Final Recommendation

I personally didn't find this book as emotionally charged and powerful as so many other reviewers indicated. In fact, I was left a bit cold by it and finished it with a shrug. However, I seem to be in the minority on this one so you might want to seek other opinions. However, if you are the parent of a teen or young adult and would like to initiate a discussion about death, then perhaps this book might be a good choice. I don't know -- maybe I should have read the Peter Jenkins book instead!
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?, April 11, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Looking For Alaska (Hardcover)
One person may read John Green's YA novel LOOKING FOR ALASKA and see more than enough questionable behaviors to necessitate the public banning of a book. (Yes, some loonies out there actually suggested this.) Another might look past those things and see a tight-knit group of teens exploring the Great Perhaps and trying to decide What will happen in this life? and What will we do when it hurts? and What happens after this life? "Is it nothing? POOF?" Or is there more?

Maybe Alaska, the girl who intrigues everyone she meets, is right. Maybe "straight and fast" is the best way to navigate this life.

Miles Halter may not have a clue about Alaska or her philosophy on life, but if you try to stump him, you'll soon learn that when it comes to the last words of famous people he knows his stuff. They've always intrigued him, as if someone's last words say "in bulk" who someone really is as a person. When Miles leaves for boarding school, he doesn't expect to experience much of the Great Perhaps, but he's glad he does, even if it changes his life forever. His life collision with the Colonel, Lara, Takumi, and especially Alaska, fills his life with something he's never had, both friends and experiences he'll never forget.

But it's the questions that rise from The Old Man's religion class that open up their lives and take this book to a level deeper than most YA books I've ever read.

"How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?" "How do you fit the uncontestable fact of suffering into your understanding of the world?" "How do you hope to navigate through life in spite of it?" "What is your cause for hope?"

Big questions, certainly. Questions that thinking adults sometimes stop to ask themselves, and now perhaps, so do young adults.

Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!!!!, March 26, 2006
This review is from: Looking For Alaska (Hardcover)
This book is esitially about a lot of messed up kids bumbling their way through a private school. The story centers on a Boy named Miles who memorizes last words, Miles decides that he needs a change from his boring and pointless high school creaer so far so he dicides to venture into the "Great Perhaps" and look for grander meaning at a bording school. There he meets Alaska Young a sexy and screwed up girl who opens up Miles eyes to the world and strips him of his innocence. She finds him his first girlfriend, gives him his first real drink, gets him hooked on cigretts, and is his first love.

What makes this book so good is that it's actually about smart kids going through high school who's only thoughts aren't what there wearing to prom, but instead about the world and who they are and what they're living. The author dosen't try and turn teenagers into air-heads or children, but instead examines what's actually like to be 17. The confison with the world and what it wants of you, the diser to rebel, and the feelings of responsiblity that you are just truly growing into.
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56 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Looking for Alaska, December 18, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Looking for Alaska (Paperback)
It was such a great read. But it was good and boring at the same time. I like the writing, I like every character (except for Alaska) but sometimes the writing can be dull.
This is the first John Green book I read and I've to say, I'm impressed. I like the fact that Miles (the main character) is very philosophical and good student. I felt pity for him but he was a gentleman.
Alaska? She is a sweet girl too. She is... crazy. Just crazy. It's hard to understand her; and, she is just different. Different in a differently bad way. She is nice, good looking and friendly but I didn't really like her. I think she is maddening. However, I like the fact that she is a certified bookworm.
This book rocks! It was a great book and I enjoyed it. The best thing about this book is that, it is written from the male's perspective. Most of the time YA authors are women's and we usually get the girls perspective and all her mushy feelings (I'm not saying it's bad, it isn't). This book shows what it is to be a teenage boy and how they handle things. I adore this book. I do recommend it for anybody.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, June 22, 2005
By 
This review is from: Looking For Alaska (Hardcover)
This book was amazing! I loved how the story covered deep things like the meaning of life and falling in love, but it wasn't over my head. I think this is the only book where I've both laughed aloud and still cried about. The characters came alive - I almost wish there were a sequel, but I think that would ruin the book's impact. Yes, some grown-ups might be wary of letting their teenagers read this, what with the sex and drinking and all, but I think it's worth it. Everything else in the book compensated. But it's too bad there's so much (cough) objectionable content for high school LA classes to read it, since it'd be wonderful for discussion. John Green has unbelievable talent and I hope he writes more! Looking for Alaska is a fantastic book, worth everyone's time.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for teens, March 11, 2005
This review is from: Looking For Alaska (Hardcover)
I loved this book so much, and I gave it to my 16 year old brother who is currently in military school. When I last spoke to him, he had not only read and loved it, but it had been passed around among the boys in his school, who were fighting over who got to read it next (no joke)!

It's intelligent, heartbreaking, hilarious, and I couldn't put it down.
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Looking for Alaska
Looking for Alaska by John Green (Paperback - December 28, 2006)
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