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Just Another "Moral" Book
on September 16, 2007
(This is Pat O'Donnell's daughter, not Pat O'Donnell.)
Drinking, drugs, sex, juvenile delinquency, drunk driving...these are all things you can find addressed in any public service announcement, health class, and many other sources. So why write a novel about them? Maybe the author of Looking for Alaska, John Green, felt a personal connection with these problems, a strong desire to show teens the dangers of what is now thought of as normal teenage behavior. Or maybe he thought that all of the public service announcements and health classes didn't address these "problems" well enough. John Green uses a classic example from what he considers to be an average teen's life to warn kids of the dangers of driving under the influence and general teenage delinquency. In this, the author has succeeded, as well as any health class or general warning label on a six-pack of beer does. Why not read one of those?
The answer is that John Green tries to relate this problem more closely to an average teen reading this book. Looking for Alaska tells the story of a boy, "Pudge," who transfers to a new school to get away from his boring life. While he's there, he meets lots of new and interesting friends, including the charismatic and self-destructive Alaska. "Normal" teenage delinquency ensues, climaxing in Alaska crashing her car while under the influence and dying. Now Pudge and his friends need to find the answers to some unsolved questions Alaska left behind. In order to make this story, John Green, develops strong, familiar characters, with interesting quirks. "Pudge," for example, is the familiar stock character of the awkward new kid, unsure and clumsy. John Green makes Pudge stand out from the other characters in other books of this type (there are so many) by giving him personality quirks--such as the fact that he memorizes famous people's last words. This makes him memorable, yet still easy to relate to for an average teenager.
The author's intentions in writing this book are understandable--he wishes to make teens aware of the problem that is teenage delinquency and the disasters it can cause. However, this has been done so many more times, in so many other ways, that this book is all but obsolete.