Green, J. (2005). Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton Books.
Plot Summary: In his own words, Green describes Looking for Alaska as a, “funny book, but it’s also a book about the universality of suffering and grief and forgiveness and whether or not there’s a reason for radical hope.” It is a coming of age story that chronicles the life of Pudge during his freshman year. Pudge reinvents himself at the boarding school where no one knows his previously unpopular self; he now finds himself hanging out with a group of colorful troublemakers.
Critical Evaluation: John Green writes for young adults, but he treats them as intellectuals interested in learning. In Looking for Alaska, the protagonist, Miles, also known as Pudge has a fascination with people’s last words. Green inserts these into the novel and expects the reader to understand and see the significance. While this will challenge teens, it also shows a confidence Green has that teens will embrace a character with unique interests.
Green creates suspense in Looking for Alaska by starting each chapter with the number of days before an event. The readers have no idea what this event is and must continue reading in order to find out.
Reader’s Annotation: Miles decides to challenge himself and attend boarding school. He goes by Pudge there, and he finds himself hanging out with a group of colorful troublemakers at boarding school.
Author Information: Inspired by authors like Laurie Halse Anderson and Walter Dean Myers, John Green began his writing career while working at Booklist. Born in 1977 in Alabama, which is where he returns for the setting of his first book Looking for Alaska. John Green grew-up in Orlando Florida. He attended Kenyon College.
In 2007, John and his brother Hank made a commitment to cease all textual communication and only communicate via YouTube videos posted each day. They called this project Brotherhood 2.0. They inspired an online community called “nerdfighters who fight for intellectualism and to decrease the overall worldwide level of suck.” In attempt to decrease world suck thousands of dollars have been donated to a variety of charities.
- Contemporary – Coming of Age
- Contemporary – Relationships – Friends
- Mystery and Suspense – Suspense
Curriculum Ties: English, History
- Use the unique chapter headers to format a book talk “Before” and “After”
- Use videos from Brotherhood 2.0 to introduce John and his books
Reading Level: Grades 9 and up
Interest Level: Grades 8 and up
Challenge Issues: Teen drinking, drug use and some violence could be challenge issues. If I had defend this title, I would make sure to have a file including professional book reviews, a list of awards and information regarding how the book relates to local curriculum. I would also consult the recommendations of the CCBC and ALA with regards to challenges.
Reasons for Inclusion: I have been a big fan of John Green’s ever since I read this book. I don’t think a book list for the 2000s would be complete without including at least one of his novels. He has a way of relating to teens unlike anyone else I have read or met.
Cover art. (2005). Retrieved from http://exlibrisandrea.blogspot.com/2010/02/looking-for-alaska-john-green.html
Gale. (2010). John Green. Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 82. Retrieved from Gale Biography In Context.
Green, J. (2006, March). Becoming a YA writer. Booklist. pp. 84-85.
John Green’s Biography. (2011). John Green: New York Bestselling Author. Retrieved from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-contact/
Looking for Alaska. (2005). In NoveList Plus. Retrieved from http://0-search.ebscohost.com.www.saclibrarycatalog.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=neh&tg=UI&an=133056&site=novp-live
Margolis, R. (2006). The fresh Printz. School Library Journal, 52(4), 43.