Thursday, March 30, 2006

Book Review

Looking for Alaska - by John Green

I rarely quit reading a book in the middle of the story, I always push on thinking I wouldn't want to miss it if the author somehow redeemed the story, but I could not possibly finish Looking for Alaska. I thought that it was completely offensive and inappropriate for me, let alone the young adult audience it's intended for.

Looking for Alaska recently won the Printz Award for young adult literature and it received glowing reviews from just about every critic I can think of. It got so many good reviews that I finally picked it up thinking that maybe this book was different from a lot of the other Printz Award winners with appalling content. I was disappointed to find that the difference was that it was worse. I know that the reality is that there are many high schoolers out there who can't string together a few sentences without using some of the most offensive language on the planet, and there are kids sleeping around and getting completely drunk. Just because they exist, does not mean that I need to know the dirty details of their lives and that is why I had to put this books down.

It really was too bad because Green's writing had so much potential. I found the plot interesting; Miles decides to move from his life as an outcast in Florida to explore the "great unknown" at boarding school in Alabama. He makes new friends and lusts after an intriguing girl and takes part in some interesting pranks. The characters were well-rounded, and I cared enough about them to find some summaries of the rest of the book.

I loved the relationship that Miles had with his parents. They were a total normal, loving family, which seems rare in young adult novels these days. Miles and his parents actually liked each other a communicated well, and trusted each other.

I thought that Green's idea to head each chapter with a heading counting down the days until IT happened and then counting up the days after IT happened was clever and a found myself wanting to read on to find out what IT would be, but the uglier side of the book made me put it down.

Last fall, the owner of Cover to Cover said that she would liked to see a new designation within the young adult genre. The young adult genre includes material aimed at kids from 13 to 18 and Looking for Alaska is a perfect example of a books that your average 13 or 14 year-old is not ready for. There are so many new young adult books that fit into this category and book sellers are calling for a new designation to indicate that they may be too mature for some of the young adult audience. I wholeheartedly agree that this change is necessary.

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