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Looking for Alaska Paperback – December 28, 2006
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From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—From the very first page, tension fills John Green's Michael L. Printz Award-winning novel (Dutton, 2005). Miles Halter, 16, is afraid that nobody will show up at his party because he doesn't have many friends. He loves to read biographies and discover the last words attributed to famous people. He's particularly intrigued with the dying words of poet Francois Rabelais: "I go to seek a great perhaps." Miles is leaving his loving Florida home for the "great perhaps" of the same Alabama boarding school attended by his father. Ominous chapter headings (40 days before, 10 days after) reveal that something tragic may happen. At school, Miles is accepted by a brainy group of pranksters led by his roommate and Alaska Young, a smart and sexy feminist. The teen becomes captivated by his new friends who spend as much energy on sex, smoking, drinking, and cutting-up as they do on reading, learning, and searching for life's meaning. As the school year progresses, Miles's crush on Alaska intensifies, even after it becomes evident that her troubled past sometimes causes her to be self-destructive. This novel is about real kids dealing with the pressures of growing up and feeling indestructible. Listeners will be riveted as the friends band together to deal with the catastrophic events that plague their junior year, and rejoice at their triumphs. Jeff Woodman clearly delineates the voices for each character in an age-appropriate, smart-alecky manner, injecting great emotion while managing not to be overly sentimental. This story belongs in all collections for older young adults, especially those who like Chris Crutcher, David Klass, and Terry Trueman.—JoAnn Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
★ Michael L. Printz Award Winner
★ Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
★ NPR's 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels
★ TIME Magazine's 100 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time
★ An ALA Best Book for Young Adults Top 10
★ An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers
★ A Booklist Best Book of the Year
★ A Kirkus Best Book of the Year
★ A SLJ Best Book of the Year
★ A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
“What sets this novel apart is the brilliant, insightful, suffering but enduring voice of Miles Halter.” –Chicago Tribune
“Funny, sad, inspiring, and always compelling.” –Bookpage
“Stunning conclusion . . . one worthy of a book this good.” -–Philadelphia Inquirer
“The spirit of Holden Caulfield lives on.” –Kliatt
★ “What sings and soars in this gorgeously told tale is Green’s mastery of language and the sweet, rough edges of Pudge’s voice. Girls will cry and boys will find love, lust, loss and longing in Alaska’s vanilla-and-cigarettes scent.” –Kirkus, starred review
★ “Miles’s narration is alive with sweet, self-deprecating humor, and his obvious struggle to tell the story truthfully adds to his believability. Like Phineas in John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, Green draws Alaska so lovingly, in self-loathing darkness as well as energetic light.” –SLJ, starred review
★ “Miles is a witty narrator who manages to be credible as the overlooked kid, but he's also an articulate spokesperson for the legions of teen searching for life meaning (his taste for famous last words is a believable and entertaining quirk), and the Colonel's smarts, clannish loyalties, and relentlessly methodological approach to problems make him a true original....There's a certain recursive fitness here, since this is exactly the kind of book that makes kids like Miles certain that boarding school will bring them their destiny, but perceptive readers may also realize that their own lives await the discovery of meaning even as they vicariously experience Miles' quest.” –BCCB, starred review
“John Green has written a powerful novel—one that plunges headlong into the labyrinth of life, love, and the mysteries of being human. This is a book that will touch your life, so don’t read it sitting down. Stand up, and take a step into the Great Perhaps.”
–K.L. Going, author of Fat Kid Rules the World, a Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book
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He truly writes characters that resonate and live beyond his words. His characters are complex and Alaska Young may be his most complex. Green is adept at making you "feel" what his characters feel.
"Looking for Alaska" follows this pattern but truly stands alone. The following passage from the book says everything you need to hear:
"We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail."--John Green from "Looking for Alaska" Few authors can move me with their words like this.
And then there was John Green.
After reading “The Fault in Our Stars” I knew I had to read everything ever written by this man. So here I am on my second John Green read, “Looking for Alaska.”
I had no idea what “Looking for Alaska” was going to be about other than 1) it was written by John Green and 2) the book had nothing to do with my home state.
The things I loved most: the humor, voice, and how tragically true to life the characters, and their circumstances, were. I appreciated Green’s ability to make me recall my own teenage desires to escape life’s maze and become something other than a drone trapped in the grind of life and responsibility.
On a personal note, something similar to what happened in the “After” section happened to a suitemate when I was attending an all-women’s college in Nevada, Missouri. Tragedies happen and as a whole, we cannot help trying to piece together what led to such an event. It’s human nature to reason and wonder and John Green showed that beautifully in “Looking for Alaska”, but more importantly than that, at least in my opinion, is the Great Perhaps. It’s no mystery that we’re all going to die. Until then, there are experiences and adventures to be had, people to meet, and books to read.
Pudge (an ironic nickname) is our main character, and he has selected to go to boarding school in order to seek a loftier experience than his current education allows. The author never tells you why this happened, what the character's motivation is in doing this, or much of his past history at all. That bothered me at first, but I came to understand that's not the point of the story. The point of the story is the friends Pudge makes, including Alaska Youngman (same Alaska as in the title).
The book is divided into halves with an ominous countdown to the split-point, and no clue as to what said countdown is counting down to. In the first half of the book... well, basically, all I can say is, I wanted to be there. I wanted to have friends like the scheming Colonel, the beat-boxing Takashi, the cute foreign exchange student Pudge is set up with, and the crush on the unattainable Alaska. I wanted to go to this school, be these people's friends, and live this person's life. I wanted to live in this world.
The second half... well, I can't talk about that.
It shares a lot of the same themes and motifs that "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" does. The same YA setting with the unrequited crush, lovable best friend, observant main character, and g/f who doesn't work out. But it's not the same story, not by a long shot. Let me just say this. I got this book from the library. Then I bought it, because I loved it that much.
That didn't happen with Looking for Alaska.
First, the book title is simply brilliant! For a long time I passed this book on Amazon and I thought it was something in the lines of the movie Into the Wild. I can't explain it, but the title just had that ring to me...and in some way it didn't prove me wrong!
Now, the story: I loved it! It has intelligent and flawed characters, a captivating storyline, it's deep, it has heart, but above all it has soul. We can see so much of John Green as an Author in this book that it becomes real. We can see him in his characters, in their doubts, in their troubles, in the way they suffer, that you can picture them in your head. So to me this book was way better than The Fault in Our Starts.
This is a book about loss, and friendship, and being young and in love, and the time all of us believed that we knew everything, and that the world was ours to conquer. So, in the end, it's a book about hope as well.