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14 April 2006 @ 07:59 am
John Green's LOOKING FOR ALASKA (5 stars)  
One person may read John Green's YA novel LOOKING FOR ALASKA and see more than enough questionable behaviors to necessitate the public banning of a book. Another might look past those things and see a tight-knit group of teens exploring the Great Perhaps and trying to decide What will happen in this life? and What will we do when it hurts? and What happens after this life? "Is it nothing? POOF?" Or is there more?

Maybe Alaska, the girl who intrigues everyone she meets, is right. Maybe "straight and fast" is the best way to navigate this life.

Miles Halter may not have a clue about Alaska or her philosophy on life, but if you try to stump him, you'll soon learn that when it comes to the last words of famous people he knows his stuff. They've always intrigued him, as if someone's last words say "in bulk" who someone really is as a person. When Miles leaves for boarding school, he doesn't expect to experience much of the Great Perhaps, but he's glad he does, even if it changes his life forever. His life collision with the Colonel, Lara, Takumi, and especially Alaska, fills his life with something he's never had, both friends and experiences he'll never forget.

But it's the questions that rise from The Old Man's religion class that open up their lives and take this book to a level deeper than most YA books I've ever read.

"How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?" 
"How do you fit the uncontestable fact of suffering into your understanding of the world?" 
"How do you hope to navigate through life in spite of it?" 
"What is your cause for hope?"

Big questions, certainly. Questions that thinking adults sometimes stop to ask themselves, and now perhaps, so do young adults. 

If this book review was helpful, please vote for it at Amazon.
dancewriteredenzdream on April 14th, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
I read this book, then passed it on to my daughter, a voracious YA reader. We both enjoyed it, and you're right about the deeper issues covered here. I wonder how many kids really enjoy reading the deeper versus the light, escape lit that lines the shelves? I guess sales numbers would answer that question. Here's the thing: adults, having lived through a more vast variety of experiences, might make a reading choice of something deep because they're looking to "fill holes", or "take back" something, or "find" something". Fewer kids, (with their relatively small exeprience) may choose deeper reads for those same reasons, but opt for something escapist, instead, without giving the deeper reads much thought.

I still think these deeper reads are valuable, even though their appeal may be more limited.

Just a thought.
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on April 17th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC)
I think that's amazing that you read the books and pass them on to your daughter. Kudos!

I agree with you completely. Books like this one are valuable even if their wider appeal is limited. Sometimes things just need to be said.
mike|ted: eraserlost_child2 on July 6th, 2006 05:45 pm (UTC)
I just picked this book up cuz you seemed to like it so much. And cuz i think Alaska is cool. (Well it is, isn't it?)
Hopefully in 6 to 8 weeks (i.e., the time it takes me to read a book) i will be thanking you thanking you for the recommendation :)
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on July 6th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for droping back by to let me know. That's encouraging to hear about.

Alaska is totally cool, especially in the book. I hope you enjoy it.
mike|ted: l_childlost_child2 on July 20th, 2006 12:33 am (UTC)
Alaska kept me up till one a.m. last night, but it was totally worth it. My favorite part was the thing about the Colonel going for a walk (p. 149) - very familiar (though i've never walked that far). Really wonderful book, well-drawn characters, extremely believable. Etc. Thanks much for talking about it!
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on July 20th, 2006 12:36 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it. I agree with you that it really is a wonderful book.