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Looking for Alaska
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on January 15, 2018
I read this first in college for a young adult literature class, got through the rest of college, started working, and in the process of all of that in-between stuff, I forgot about this lovely book. I remember liking the book, but not much else. I don't know if I just got busy or if I was too involved in myself or what. Either way, I'm glad I reread it.

A young adult novel about life and death and moving on doesn't sound all that original at first, but Green's treatment of adolescents is different. He makes his characters complex and intelligent and impulsive as every teenager truly is. He does not treat his characters as they might treat themselves, over-important or that which should be pitied. Nor does he treat them as so many adults might, with disdain for their rashness and lack of experience. The author makes his story accessible and realistic to teens and adults alike because there seems to be truth in the conflicting emotions his characters go through.

Mildly pornographic. MILDLY. Just tasteful enough for adolescents learning that sex is confusing and funny and kinda great but really just mostly confusing at first.

I'm glad the answers aren't given in this book. It's about learning how to move on when there aren't definite answers, when there is doubt. This book is about figuring out some things on your own and doing the best you can with what you've got. It helps to forgive and to empathize and to search, but keep going all the while, day by day.
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on March 27, 2015
I initially picked this book to read for a literature class I am taking for a module on the censorship and banning of books for children and young adults. Having absolutely loved The Fault in Our Stars, when I saw this John Green novel on the ALA's list of most frequently banned books in the 21st century, I jumped at it. The grounds for its censorship has been the presence of profanity, underage drinking and smoking, drug use, and sexual content. It is true, there is all of that, but presented in a realistic, true-to-life way. I am staunchly opposed to censorship and banning and this is a book that I not only don't believe deserves to be banned, but it is one that I have made a "must read" for my own kids.

The novel takes place within the Culver Creek Preparatory High School near Birmingham, Alabama. Miles “Pudge” Halter is the new student, obsessed with the last words of famous people. He has transferred to Culver Creek in the hopes that he can find his own “Great Perhaps,” an idea that has come from the last words of François Rabelais, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” At his last school, Miles was a bit socially awkward, more obsessed with reading biographies than with socializing with friends, and he wants to start fresh at Culver Creek. The first person he meets is Chip “The Colonel” Martin, his new roommate who introduces Miles to his own best friends. Takumi Hikohito is obsessed with hip hop and rapping and Alaska Young is a beautiful girl, although emotionally rather unstable, for whom Miles immediately falls.

In many ways, Alaska is the glue that holds the group of friends together. She is beautiful and intelligent and fun to be with and very enigmatic. Although we see different parts of her throughout the book, we, as readers, never really know her any more than her friends do. Even at the end, there are questions that leave you angsty and emotional. Her story is her own and threads of it run through the stories of all of her friends. She is irrevocably a part of their own histories in a myriad of ways.

More than anything, it is a story of coming of age, with all of the pain and angst that goes along with it. There are beautiful moments, funny moments heart wrenching moments, touching moments. There are moments of laughter and moments of sadness. It is an absolutely beautiful story.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the book was its structure. It is created in two parts, "Before" and "After," leading us to and from a pivotal point that I won't describe. The chapters underscored that concept, marking time like "forty-five days before." You know something is going to happen, but you have no idea what it is.

My Recommendation: I think that this is a beautiful book that touches on real situations in ways that are both touching and tragic.
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on December 9, 2014
Miles Halter found his Great Perhaps and then some when he meets Alaska Young at a co-ed boarding school he enrolls at in Alabama. His claim to fame is memorizing famous peoples last words, which he quotes throughout the book. This is a coming of age novel about how Miles "Pudge" searches for himself and his place in the world, and what his beliefs are and how he comes to find the answer to some of life's most difficult questions that we all have to face. I've had this book on my Kindle for a long time but have been reluctant to read it because I was so disappointed by The Fault in our Stars. Luckily, this was nothing like that, far better and I wish I'd read Looking for Alaska before reading The Fault in our Stars so my opinion of John Green wouldn't have had such an awful first impression (did I mention I didn't like The Fault in Our Stars?). It's a quick read, I used it to break up the Game of Throne and the Outlander series' that I've been reading, needed something different and this was the perfect 2 day break. I give it 5 stars and recommend it to anyone of any age, not just YA. I'm now more optimistic about reading more of Green's books.
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on June 13, 2014
I came upon John Green by way of my granddaughter, who is currently addicted to his books. Wanting to have something to talk about with her, I downloaded a John Green e-sampler from Amazon. The first book in the sampler, Looking for Alaska, caught my interest immediately, so I downloaded the whole book onto my Kindle. I loved the way it was set up, starting with “one hundred thirty-six days before…” and continued moving closer to whatever was going to happen. Since I was reading it on my Kindle, it wasn’t easy for me to skip ahead and see what was going to happen. I couldn’t wait and kept reading until it was done. I found the characters to be realistic and likeable, and I’m sure the appeal would be even greater to teens. The story evoked a wide range of emotions, from laughing hysterically at some of the kids’ pranks to deep sadness at the consequences of some of the same.

Although intended for Grades 9-12, I found the book engaging and well written. It covered sensitive topics, such as substance abuse, sex and death, directly and with honesty. I can clearly see why my twelve-year-old granddaughter loves John Green’s books. I’m glad that she’s reading and that she has found an author who is socially conscious. Looking for Alaska is a coming of age story geared for those coming of age in 2014. I found it to be a great read for anyone who’d like a window into the lives of those young adults. Definitely a good read!
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on March 21, 2016
I really enjoyed the first 60% of this book, which is Part I. There was a very nice slow build to the main event, and the pacing was great. Then the main event happened, and it was a slow, resolve to the end. I didn't enjoy this as much, probably because it was most about the "why" the event happened, and I had already figured it out.

The book as a whole is beautifully written with humor and depth. The style fit perfectly with the characters. I enjoyed all of the characters and their stories. I can see why this is a popular YA book and a popular author.
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on October 8, 2017
I read this book after seeing it on many lists. Not a teenager, I had no idea what it was about or it’s popularity. That said, I loved the book, the characters, the plot, the symbolism, pretty much everything about it. I’m not going to give anything away, but if you’re reading this review and thinking about reading this book, then stop thinking and go read it. If you’re reading reviews instead of reading the book then stop being lame and go read it.
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on July 12, 2014
I think if I'd read this book as a high school student, I'd have been very moved and impacted by this story. It's a strong story of friendship and the all or nothing attitude of teens. However it reads as if an adult is trying to write a teenager's viewpoint and it doesn't work as well for me. I like John Green and think he's got loads of talent. This story just wasn't the bowl over that TFIOS was for me.

Miles is your atypical teen in many ways and his decision to go to a boarding school as a junior definitely fits with his image as an outsider. The supporting characters are diverse but somewhat typical. The brainy kid. The rich kid. The scholarship kid. Alaska is so far outside of the typical teen, however, that as a reader I was immediately drawn to her. She is wise and unwise. The kind of friend you want, but the kind you are afraid of as well. She is wounded and wild. She is the sun in their world.

The story develops as expected but you want to stick around and see what happens. I liked the before and after format Green used. It helped build the tension.
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on December 31, 2013
Every once in a while, along comes a book that you can't put down. That puts a character in your head you can't help but fall in love with. A book that does everything simply, but never THAT simply. A book that gives you everything you need, but leaves you wanting more. Like a restaurant that has the best food ever -- you leave satisfied, but you're sad you can't eat anymore.

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.
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on March 25, 2014
There are books I love, am crazy about, but I rarely consider myself a wild fan of an author. I can enjoy and respect their work sans fawning over the person. They’re only human.

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.
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on June 24, 2014
In typical John Green fashion, Looking for Alaska ripped my heart out and put it in a blender. Miles (Pudge) is a junior at a boarding school for the first time. He was a loner and misfit in his school were he lives, but is a just a misfit in a group of misfits at the boarding school. He’s fascinated by, maybe in love with, Alaska, a girl in the group. The book is split into before and after with the before counting down to a certain day and event and the after trying to make sense of life and what has happened.

Yes, the characters do naughty things much like any group of teenagers with little supervision (they also do good things like study a lot and try really hard to get good grades in their classes). The characters are real (several are probably just like people you know). They make mistakes. Other than (or maybe because of?) the whole heart blender thing, Looking for Alaska is a fabulous book.
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