Friday, March 19, 2010

Looking for Alaska by John Green

This first book I'm going to write about is one I first picked up in my sophomore year of high school, if I'm not mistaken. This was pretty much the year my life revolved around the library in my school- or at least, my lunch period did. At any rate, I devoured this book about a boy named Miles Halter, alias Pudge, who goes to a boarding school in Alabama and finds new friends and falls head over heels for a girl named Alaska Young, a clever, stunningly attractive and self-destructive young woman who's battling some demons. His circle of friends talk, travel, get into trouble and learn a lot from each other, even in the face of a terrible tragedy within the circle.

However deep and poignant this book may be, however, some parents can't get over the sexual innuendos/content and graphic language Green uses. The book was challenged in the Depew, NY, school system, specifically for use within 11th grade Regents English classes, for its content. In the end, the book was retained, with the school requiring students to obtain parental permission in a letter; only 3 parents refused to let their children read it.

When asked in a bonus interview at the back of the book what he thought of the challenges, Green said that he never thought to censor himself while writing, though he got nervous when it came closer to publication. He added, "Teachers have been trained to teach, and they know how to teach, and we need to fight to let them teach uncensored books... in an English class or evolution in a biology class." And he's right. Parents will never let their kids do what Miles, the Colonel and Alaska do, but that doesn't mean that there are no lessons or teachable themes in the story. This book is incredibly written; the characters leap off the page (especially the Colonel, who is my favorite character), and in writing them so vividly Green is able to teach us, through their faults, mistakes, mischief and experiences, the meaning of life and of suffering.

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