Top positive review
One person found this helpful
on February 3, 2014
The challenging of John Green’s Looking for Alaska in Colorado, and banning of the book in Sumner County, TN (in May 2012) unfortunately has all the hallmarks of overreaction. While I’d grant that the groups that have chosen to ban this book have certainly read the questionable elements of the book – the sexual content, consumption of alcohol and cigarettes, etc. – I wonder whether objectors themselves have set out to question the questionable? In other words, have they really read the book, because it seems very obvious that if they had, they’d have likely come across answers to their own questions. They might have also realized that the book offers a unique opportunity for teachers to open a dialogue about the very things they’re worried about.
Looking for Alaska is a well thought out and well written book. The book’s characters are teenagers who engage in the sort of behavior that…well teens engage in. They also analyze and question their own behavior. When they make mistakes – as teens inevitably do – they question and scrutinize these missteps too. They rarely (if ever) ignore their own burdened consciences. One of the most impressive things about Green’s writing is that his characters are rarely let off the hook (for anything) and in the course of the action all major characters are called (at one time or another) on their own behavior.
Is there drinking? Is there smoking? Is there sexual content? Is there objectionable language? The answer is yes for everything, but Green, if anything makes a case, that none of those teen activities are the raison d’etre for any of the characters. None of these “questionable” behaviors are taken frivolously or lightly – by either writer or character – and there are consequences for any character who engages in them.
Neither is Green’s writing haphazard. Everything happens for a reason and instead of taking a wholly unrealistic approach that none of these “questionable” actions happen amongst teens, he instead delves into the why and how they affect the lives of the characters? The question I would ask as a teacher – of any group or council that seeks to ban this book – is why would you want to ban a book that challenges teens to ask questions about their own behavior? Why deprive teens from the chance to read a book that depicts other intelligent teens trying to make sense of the pain in the world and how they might better engage with ways in easing that pain? In places where this book has been banned or challenged, they’re not only questioning the wrong things they’re completely oblivious to the answers.