Monday, August 12, 2013

Looking for Alaska (Book Review)

Author: John Green
Year: 2005
Genre: Novel

Reading Level: Young Adult

Literary Awards: School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2005), Booklist Editors' Choice (2005), NYPL Best Book for the Teen Age, An ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2006), Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2005) Printz Award (2006), ALA Teens' Top Ten (2005), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2006), Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis Nominee for Jugendbuch (2008), ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2006), The Inky Awards for Silver Inky (2007), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2009) 

Plot Summary: In search of something more, Miles Halter transfers from his Florida high school to Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama.  There he finds his something more in wild child annoying Alaska Young.  She turns his life upside down, and where Alaska goes, change is sure to follow. 

Red Flags: Lots of language, teen drinking/smoking/canoodling, sexual content, death
My Rating: C- 
I had mixed expectations for this book, but it wound up missing even my lowered mark.  I was kind of peeved at John Green while reading it because it felt so...beneath him.  He is a talented writer, but there was so little to like about this book.  For one thing, it was such a crude book, especially for YA, and that bothers me.  But also I didn't like the characters or even the story.  I spent most of this book wringing my hands and wailing, "Don't these people have any hobbies???"  I swear these teenagers just sit around smoking and being all "introspective" about life and their self-created issues.  Also I am tired of YA characters saying they don't smoke or drink and then they get new friends who say "Hey, come smoke" and they're all "Cool thanks bro."  Don't they have any steadfastness of principle????  Yes, apparently I am an adult now.  But seriously.

ANYway, I just didn't care for this book and didn't really enjoy reading it and was glad when it was over.  I still think John Green is a good writer, and he is certainly a better writer than this book would indicate.  Also, can we just talk about irritating Alaska is?  What is her appeal?  I get that she's supposed to be kind of a basket case, but if so, then why does everyone love her?  She was exhausting to read.  

ANYANYway, the last ten pages or so were pretty good and I did get into it at that point (hence the slightly higher rating than it would have had).  But were those pages worth slogging through the rest of it?  No.

Memorable lines:
"The only thing worse than having a party that no one attends is having a party attended only by two vastly, deeply uninteresting people."--p. 4

"I hated sports.  I hated sports, and I hated people who played them, and I hated people who watched them, and I hated people who didn't hate people who watched or played them."--p. 45

"'You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you'll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imaging that future keeps you going, but you never do it.  You just use the future to escape the present.'"--p. 54

"There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day.  Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future.  If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions.  But we can't know better until knowing better is useless."--p. 218

"I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts.  If you take Alaska's genetic code and you add her life experiences and the relationships she had with people, and then you take the size and shape of her body, you do not get her.  There is something else entirely.  There is a part of her greater than the sum of her knowable parts.  And that part has to go somewhere, because it cannot be destroyed.
" thing I learned from science classes is that energy is never created and never destroyed...awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be. When adults say, 'Teenagers think they are invincible' with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are.  We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken.  We think that we are invincible because we are.  We cannot be born, and we cannot die.  Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations.  They forget that when they get old [OLD??].  They get scared of losing and failing.  But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail."--p. 220-221

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