Publisher's Note:  

The award-winning, genre-defining debut from #1 bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars

Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
New York Times bestseller

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.

Looking for Alaska

by John Green

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Overall Review:  

Knowing that my students read and love this book, I thought I should check it out. What I found disappointed me. The story is sensational, which appeals to kids. Its characters are unbelievable and frequently overdramatic to the point of being annoying. Of course drama also appeals to kids, but I have a hard time understanding how anyone could feel too much empathy for such unlikeable characters. I don't even really know how the characters can stand each other.


I suppose it's easier to deal with issues of teen-alcoholism, tobacco addiction, sexual exploits, rejection, depression, and suicide when characters attend a private boarding school at which there seems to be little (if any) adult supervision. Realistically though, children deal with all these issues right at home, and few of them live in the kind of conditions the characters of Looking for Alaska experience. The whole premise felt contrived and overblown. The comic relief was almost always vulgar and coarse. The serious moments lacked realism and pathos. 


I understand that many teens overdramatize events and base their dangerous or unwise actions on misunderstandings between themselves and their loved ones. I think that's what young people like about this story. However, I don't understand how a person could become as messed up as Alaska and her friends are, unless they came from backgrounds a whole lot harder than they're claiming they did. Since they seem to thrive on one-upping each other with horrifying stories of their pasts, I doubt that's the case.

Looking for Alaska left me looking for something of substance. I won't be recommending it to anyone.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  86 religious profanities; 40 mild obscenities; 14 religious obscenities; 23 derogatory names; 85 scatological words; 31 anatomical terms; 34 f-word derivatives.


Violence/Gore:  A character claims that he was physically abused; a character suffers a concussion after a sports accident; a character is cut on thorns with some blood; a character tells the story of watching his mother be physically abused; a character is killed in a car accident, and the body is described in some detail; a character kicks another character with no injury.


Sex/Nudity:  A character examines himself in the mirror after a shower with no sexual references; a character relates the story of someone touching her breast; a character pulls off another character's pants as a joke; a male character describes a female character's tight, provocative clothing and the thoughts it inspires (3 times); minor-aged characters are reported to have had sex (4 times); minor-aged characters refer to sexual experiences (7 times); a character promises to find a sexual partner for another character; orgasm is referred to; pornography is referred to (twice); a character thinks about having sex with another character (3 times); a character thinks about kissing another character (twice); a character's breasts are discussed (4 times); a character tells another character that someone wants to have sex with him; two characters kiss passionately; an erection is referred to (3 times); "making out" is referred to; masturbation is referred to; a character flirts with another character (5 times); penis size is referred to (twice); in an extended scene (3 pgs), two characters watch and discuss a pornographic movie in some detail; an adult character's sexual experience is referred to; in an extended scene (4 pgs), two characters kiss, with one person laying on top of the other; a character grabs another character's buttocks; in an extended scene (4 pgs), two minor-aged characters participate in oral sex with graphic detail; oral sex is discussed (3 times); two characters kiss and caress each other; a character dreams about sexual activity with another character with few details.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Suicide, abuse, divorce, bullying, death of a loved one.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Minor characters drink and smoke throughout the book; marijuana use is discussed.

Reviewed By Leslie
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