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on March 30, 2005
...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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on July 18, 2007
John Green's ambitious YA novel, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, took the Michael Printz Award and probably deserves it due to its excellent characterizations of the title character (Alaska Young), the protagonist (Miles "Pudge" Halter), the protagonist's clever roommate (Chip "Colonel" Martin), and their Asian sidekick (Takumi). The setting is an Alabaman private school, Culver Creek, and the catalyst for Miles is a pair of famous last words, Francois Rabelais' "I go to seek a Great Perhaps," and Simon Bolivar's "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?"

With its academic setting, the book provides classroom and dorm room fodder for "deep" discussions, chiefly about religion, famous writers, and poets. It also indulges in a few cliches, namely the slightly dorky lead character in search of himself in a world of hormone-crazed teens who smoke, drink, and quest for sex every chance they get.

Readers may be divided on the title character -- some fascinated by the mercurial personality of Alaska, and others annoyed (as are her friends, off and on) by her constant moods and antics. What's more, the book is divided by a "before" and an "after." The "before" succeeds to a greater extent than the "after" for reasons I cannot specify due to spoiler information.

Still, I was able to overlook Alaska's whining, an easily-solved mystery at the end, and a few characters' very bad accents (phonetically spelled out by Green) due to the fact that this YA went the extra mile and didn't depend on plot alone. I had hoped to place this in my classroom library, but there's just no way due to the adult themes. Will it tempt teen readers? You bet. But schools have rules and it's not worth the possible hazards of offering age-inappropriate stuff -- even when it's GOOD age-inappropriate stuff.
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on November 17, 2015
After enjoying a few of John Greens books, I was excited about Looking for Alaska. Unfortunately it was a huge let down. The characters were irritatingly predictable, and the use of profanity was ridiculous. Whereas Greens other books manage to cross over to enjoyable literature for older adults, this felt like I was reading something designed to be read by snickering teenage boys in the corner of the library.
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on September 13, 2016
What an engrossing story. Mr. Green has struck the perfect tone for the suspenseful drama that is Looking for Alaska. Such wonderful characters in the backdrop of a private boarding school located in Alabama. The "Alaska" portion of the title is the name a female member of the "clique" that all the boys adore from a distance. She's whimsical, spontaneous, playful, dark, enigmatic and just a joy to be around.

Green develops each character through their antics and each adds something to the group and the story that has you turning pages furiously. It's a well worn phrase but I honestly couldn't put it down.

For those who've read the book, the tragedy that occurs some two thirds through truly took the wind out of me. I was affected so much I didn't want to finish the book purely out of protest. However, similar to the movie "Psycho" where our heroin was "offed", the book, like the movie, continued on to be just as intriguing.

Excellent work Mr. Green.
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on September 4, 2016
I thought this book was well written but I think I'm 25-30 years too old to appreciate it. If I was 18, I think I would have related more to the struggles of the main characters in the book and how they respond when something happens to one of their fellow students. I'm trying to be cryptic so I don't reveal too much and spoil it for others but I think that one of the benefits of being older is that you're able to better process the crap that life throws at you and the experiences over the years enable you to learn how to cope and move on. I would much rather be my older self with the wisdom and experiences of life and would not like to be 17 or 18 again for anything! The characters in this book find it really hard to cope with 'said event' and to move forward. To me, the fact that much of this book was devoted to this struggle was much ado about nothing and there really wasn't much to keep me interested and turning the pages. I had to force myself to labor through this and it took several weeks for me to finally finish it.
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on May 5, 2008
I teach high school, and I really wanted to read this to my students. Unfortunately, it has some language usage and sexual references that make it impossible to read as a class. I would recommend it to a high school student, however. It is pertinent to things that may be happening in their lives, and it has some powerful literary elements that may someday make it a classic.
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on July 17, 2016
In this book, John Green gives us Alaska Young an alcoholic, superficial, chain smoking, narcissist whose main goal in life seems to be to play silly pointless pranks on her fellow high school students. We are reminded over and over how beautiful and “hot” she is, and I suppose these qualities are meant to excuse her other failings. The book is divided into two parts: BEFORE Ms. Young is killed in an automobile accident/suicide and AFTER the unfortunate event. Personally, I found Alaska completely unsympathetic, and therefore I couldn’t relate to the sobbing and carrying on in the second half of the book engaged in my everyone who knew her.

Mr. Green is capable of creating nuanced and sympathetic female characters, such as Hazel Grace Lancaster who appears in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, a far, far better book. I realize that LOOKING FOR ALASKA is an earlier work and the author was still working out some major themes, so I've cut him some slack for that. Overall, though, I think the book is unsuccessful.
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on July 20, 2014
I wanted to enjoy this book, but it was dry and uninteresting. It’s an uneventful book about boring teenagers doing boring teenage things. If you think smoking, talking about sex, and drinking cheap wine are wickedly naughty forms of entertainment, perhaps you’ll enjoy this book. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 19, 2014
Looking for Alaska by John Green follows Miles who is a new student at boarding school. An outcast at his past school Miles quickly falls in with a crowd of kids who spend most of their time smoking and drinking while planning pranks on their enemies the rich kids at schools they call the weekend warriors. Alaska, a girl in his group is Miles' obsession, and we see her struggle until the unforseen happens.

I just couldn't take this book. It was so well regarded and I've enjoyed other books by John Green but something about the setting and characters didn't work for me. It takes place in apparently the worst boarding school ever. Where there's little to no supervision aside from one teacher who runs after those who are obviously misbehaving (and rarely catches them). The kids smoke (and smoke and smoke, smoking is almost a subplot it's used so much) and drink and hang out in rooms of the opposite sex with no oversight at all which I find totally unrealistic for a school that's housing minors. The characters seem to be caricatures of the troubled and lonely and the main character doesn't even think twice before taking a cigarette or drinking.

Appropriateness: This is certainly not a book for young teens. There are fairly graphic descriptions of sexual acts. The characters drink and smoke and do drugs as a major plot point in the book. I would recommend it to teens 16+
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on March 30, 2016
I can see why this book is popular among lit teachers. It's full of THEMES and BIG IDEAS. Forgiveness. Friendships. Love. Relationships. Teenagers. Mortality.

It's also about 16-year-olds who swear (a lot), get drunk (a lot), smoke (a lot), and have sex (a lot).

I won't offer Looking for Alaska to my kids. But if If my teenage kids are asked to read it for school, I will use it as an extended teaching opportunity and read it along with them. I'll tell them exactly what they'll be reading about and what we'll be talking about.

I don't care how big the ideas are. If they can't talk about it, then they can't read about it.
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