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Registered Members => Book Talk => Topic started by: nina nelson on June 30, 2005, 01:07 PM

Title: Looking for Alaska
Post by: nina nelson on June 30, 2005, 01:07 PM
Just finished this book last night and I am in awe, jealous, motivated and intimidated by John Green's writing. This book was amazing. 2 years ago I was at a writer's retreat with Julie Strauss Gabel, who is the editor of this book, and she titled her speech "Why I love John Green" or Why John Green is a genius"; she couldn't decide. I thought it was interesting that she should gush over one author like this, but now I realize why. I really wish I knew his he created this book, what it looked like in the first draft and what his second book is about. If you haven't read Looking for Alaska...I highly recommend it. It is a crossover, adult/YA, and I see this as a movie in the future.

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: hairaplenty on June 30, 2005, 02:00 PM
Haven't read it but it's on my list.  I met JSG quite a few years ago.  She is one of my dream editors.  Didn't realize she's the editor for this book.   Now I have to read it.  Thanks!

   :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o    :o  :o   :o   :o   :o    :o
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Bohemian Princess on June 30, 2005, 02:09 PM
I couldn't agree more.  I think he is a genius.  This is one book I loved, even when it made me cry.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: hairaplenty on July 16, 2005, 10:01 PM
You know the first 100 pages are so were a little draggy for me.  But then it really was a "can't put it down till the end."
I agree with Nina, would love to know his process etc.  What an orginal book!  His writing and voice fresh and authentic!  And in a dark and edgy book he leaves the reader with hope!  Really one to read!
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: bookgirl on July 17, 2005, 12:36 PM

I am looking forward to reading this.  I went to get a copy but they were sold out.  I heard the editor, Julie, speak about it.
Speaking of Julie Strauss Gobel. . .wow. . .what an articulate person.  I could have listened to her talk all day.  She made words sing! 
Meg :clover
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: joanpaq on July 27, 2005, 09:56 AM
Wow - I just got finished reading this book and I LOVE his writing. Really a great write and seriously, what am I doing in this business??   :confused2:

(Okay, enough reading and drooling for me - back to work!)


Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Lisa S on July 27, 2005, 10:41 AM
I just read it too and I have to agree with all the things Nina said.

First of all, there were places I laughed so hard, I cried.  It's hard to make me laugh out loud when I'm reading, but with this book, I did.  Ask my husband. 

And then, there were places I just plain cried.  A book that can do that, make a person laugh and cry, well, my hat is off to you, John Green!!! 

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: katep on August 05, 2005, 08:48 AM
I enjoyed the first half more, too.  The second half seemed to cross the bridge into Madison County territory.

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Cynthia on August 07, 2005, 08:22 PM
Well, I'm going to be the wet blanket.  I just finished it and I was seriously underwhelmed.  Technically, he's a good writer, and has some great lines. I really liked the last-lines-people-said device. 

But at the end, I thought, is that it?  Some lame thing about how we forgive each other?  After all that?  Each of the three religions they studied in class deals with those very hard questions and issues in a great deal of depth, because depth is required.    The mc really moralized at the end - in fact I felt rather preached to - but it was not what I would consider very deep.   And despite this moralizing, the mc and friends are certainly not what I would consider very moral, their estimation of the greatest sin being ratting on friends.  Even the Colonel, my favorite character by far, considered ratting worse than attempted homicide, worse than suicide, and WAY worse than casual oral sex or cheating on your boyfriend (actually he didn't have a problem at all with the latter two).

I clearly come from a very different worldview, which I know gets in the way.  But even when I try to be objective, it just doesn't do much for me; I didn't take away much.  Maybe because the two "sides" of the prep school seemed artificial to me; the only choices were rich spoiled mean kids, or on the edge kids.  I couldn't see myself in either of those groups, and as good as Green's writing is, it didn't really pull me in enough to identify with any of the characters.

I won't argue with praise for his writing, but I'm wondering what others got from the story itself?  Did it shed light on something for you, make you think of something in a new way?  Or am I just being an over-40 curmudgeon?
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: katep on August 08, 2005, 11:57 AM
Speaking as another curmudgeon, I wonder why Alaska had to be hot.  What if she'd been ugly or worn dumpy T-shirts instead of tank tops?  Would Miles have thought twice about her?
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Bohemian Princess on August 10, 2005, 01:46 PM
  I enjoyed the writing.  This is not the type of book I normally read (I prefer fantasy) but I did feel the characters.  It felt real to me, even though I did not particularlly relate to any of the characters on a personal level.  It made me smile and it made me cry.  Would I want my 12 year old to read it? No, not for a while.  As far as Alaska being hot...I guess that is just what he saw.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. She could have looked trashy to everyone else but that was not how he saw her.   I took it more as his trying to express her sexuality, where as I don't think dumpy just would not have gotten the same image across.  But, what do I know?
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Cynthia on August 11, 2005, 07:36 AM
I took it that Alaska definitely was hot, not just to Miles...the other guys drooled over her too, held off only by her being (as it turns out, only sort of) loyal to her boyfriend.  The one guy (not the colonel; I can't remember his name) was kind of jealous when he found out Miles kissed her.  They didn't seem to notice the other girl as much (forgot her name too - I need another cup of coffee).  She might have looked trashy too, although I think it's hard to look trashy these days.  You would just blend right in.  I think trashy would only enhance the "hotness," though. 

katep, I think if Alaska had been dumpy, Miles definitely would not have been as interested. Maybe some, maybe eventually, but not all at once like he was.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: TracyH on September 27, 2005, 11:18 AM
I absolutely loved this book.  The voice was fresh and insightful without bashing you over the head with it.  I didn't find it to be sentimental at all, but very honest.  I do have to agree with Cynthia on the end however.  I like to wrap up in the story and get carried away.  I don't like having to intellectualize as that yanks me right out of dreamland.  The essay at the end made me have to think too much about spiritual theory.  But other than that, it was great.  Loved the unique structure.  I don't recall any other books I've read having been done that way. 
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Audiate on September 27, 2005, 02:05 PM
Actually I LOVE reading books about which there is disagreement over how good it is!! So I will check it out...

what's the basic run-down on what it's about and what audience it's for?
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: TracyH on September 28, 2005, 12:13 AM
I tried summing up, but I totally suck at that.   So here's the flap copy - "Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words -- and tired of his safe life at home.  He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the 'Great Perhaps.'  Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young.  Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps."

I have to admit, I never read the flap copy until just now.  But I did read the acknowledgments and he had me with this, "I'm also indebted to Margaret Woollatt of Dutton, whose name contains too many consonants but who is a really top-notch person."  I loved the cheekiness.  And it's all throughout the novel.

Hope I didn't commit copyright infringement.

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Loretta on September 28, 2005, 05:06 AM
Wow people,

This sounds like one to read! I too like the controversy. I actually took a quick look at this book, just to see style and voice, but didn't read through the whole thing. It seems I've been doing that a lot lately (not reading the whole book) I must stop and enjoy more

This book was written about in the recent Publishers Weekly an aticle called "Why YA and Why not"  It compares the two books "Prep" and "Looking for Alaska", both have similar content yet one was published YA and one adult. I think, I'll read both to see how much they are alike and how perhaps they differ.

Anyway, just curious Cynthia, what different world view do you come from?

Thanks for such interesting reviews. I can't wait to read it.

Loretta :reading2: :study
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Aud on September 28, 2005, 07:23 AM
I posted something here yesterday, but I guess it never showed up. It was probably too inarticulate.

I think I suffered from having heard too much hype about this book before reading it. I found it very compelling while reading it, couldn't wait to get back to the story. And while I loved the narrative voice, I found the book had so much that felt derivative--the boarding-school setting, the whimsical girl down the hall--that it seemed almost familiar. In the end, I found that I read the book and promptly forgot most of it. It didn't linger. And I like a book that lingers.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: katep on September 28, 2005, 09:04 AM
Did Miles actually do anything other than react?

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Cynthia on September 28, 2005, 07:25 PM
katep, exactly.  Miles just did not engage me.  Therefore the story did not engage me.  I didn't care enough about the characters to care about what happened.

I used to nod when editors would say they were mainly looking for voice.  Of course, that is the main thing.  But I am slowly realizing that voice is not the main thing for me (whatever voice means anyway; I keep picturing this disembodied ghostly voice).  The main thing for me is story - a story that grabs me by the throat and won't let go.  That all-elusive voice is important, but not the key.  For me.  Looking for Alaska did not grab me by the throat (although there was definitely a lot of grabbing going on...).

Loretta, as to what different world view I'm coming from, I meant different from the author, not different as in weird. :)  It's an orthodox Christian view (Roman Catholic to be exact).  There are parts of the book that are objectionable to me - mainly the casual oral sex and pornography, which I think are morally wrong.  There are lots of folks who don't have a problem with that, but might if the mc were shown having lots of unprotected sex with no consequences whatsoever.  Not that they would think it was a horrible book because of that, but they might think, wow, that was good, but...    That's how I feel on that end. 

Knowing that my moral views influence my feelings and reactions to the book, I try to separate that out, at least some, to judge the book on its literary/story/characters, etc. merits.  And I think in this case I mainly didn't like it because of the reasons at the beginning of this post and my other post.  As opposed to, say, the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, which I think are great - I love reading them, great story, intersting characters and so on, but his proselytising world view (agnostic/atheistic wrapped up in pseudo-Gnostic package) just sticks in my craw.    As perhaps C.S. Lewis's overt Christianity might stick in some people's craws in the Narnia books that they otherwise like a lot.

We all have a world view - how we view life, God, moral questions and so on, and it influences how we view books whether we realize it all of the time or not.  I have a strong one, and I know it has a strong influence on my views.  Which I don't think is bad.  I think it's OK, even a good thing, to judge the moral content of a book.  We just need to be able to separate that thread from our judgement based on other criteria (or at least try; I don't think it's possible to do that fully). 

In the case of Looking for Alaska, I think the moral content sucks ( to speak).  I give the rest of it a mixed review; great voice, funny, but lacking in the story itself and the main character.

Sorry this is so long.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: katep on September 29, 2005, 08:49 AM
Well said, Cynthia. 
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: john on September 29, 2005, 02:12 PM
But then again, a lot of people back in the day thought Narnia was heretical. Heresy, like hotness, is in the eye of the beholder. (Speaking of hotness: Alaska has a big butt, which disqualifies you from hotness in a lot of times and a lot of places. Hot is a construction--there is no such actual thing, so the question
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: john on September 29, 2005, 02:19 PM
Sorry! New to this! But anyway...

The question of whether Pudge who have liked Alaska had she not been hot is, as they say in Buddhism, a question wrongly put. Like I said, hotness is inherently subjective. Alaska was hot to Pudge BECAUSE he liked her; indeed, that's always the case; it is never the other way around.)

I try not to comment in defense of my work, because people who do so always look stupid. So I'll just say that it's really interesting to read the posts here (and I'm sorry if I've intruded in doing so, but I found the thread via google, and--you know--public domain and all), and I'm really heartened to read everyone's thoughtful responses. Thanks to all who took the time to read it.

But I will say this: I'm getting married in a Catholic church on May 20th, and I doubt they'll kick me out for having written a book about the absolute ineffable universality of forgiveness and hope.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Aud on September 29, 2005, 02:33 PM
John, congrats on the great success and buzz on your book, and I double-dare you to say "absolute ineffable universality" five times fast. (Congrats on the upcoming nuptials, too.)
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: thx1978 on September 29, 2005, 02:52 PM
Great comments, Cynthia (congrats, John).
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Elle on September 29, 2005, 03:20 PM

John, Welcome! And thank you for joining the discussion. I love listening to authors speak about their work, so that I can gain further insight into the story. So please, post away!
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: katep on September 29, 2005, 03:23 PM
Ahem.  Tank top.  Appreciate the big butt, though, John! 
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Cynthia on September 29, 2005, 03:29 PM
John, welcome to the board (if you're still reading this), and no, you are not intruding; it's wonderful to hear your thoughts.

Funny, I was just thinking today, I wonder if the author googled and was reading our comments, and here I am sounding like I know better as a writer.  But that's the nature of opinions; we all have them.

No, the Catholic Church wouldn't kick you out for declaring forgiveness; it would agree with you.  In fact, it doesn't kick people out at all, contrary to popular opionion ("Here comes everybody" and all that, which is part of why I love it).  I wasn't disagreeing with the forgiveness, just thought it was thin.

Absolutely, hotness is subjective, and it follows liking someone.  My husband is very hot. :)  It just didn't seem that way in the book to me (which seemed off), but then I've only read it once, whereas I would bet you've gone over it a tad more in detail than I have.

Congratulations on the success of your book.

Congratulations on being a gracious author.

And especially, congratulations on your upcoming marriage.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: WriterRoss on September 29, 2005, 04:05 PM
What a gracious introduction By The Author. Wow. Welcome, John. I've often wondered what it would feel like to hear people talking about you in front of you. Wouldn't we all love to hear what they say about us at our funerals? (Morbid, I know, but true.)

(they better say something nice) :>
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Cassandra on September 29, 2005, 04:16 PM
I finished the book last night and the characters are still swimming around in my brain. I also heard JSG's genius speech, and was afraid that I'd be disappointed, but I loved it.


The drinking and sex and smoking didn't bother me at all. It rang true to me -(not to me, personally, I was/am a "good girl," I swear!) In my reading there were natural consequences. Alaska acknowledges that she's smoking to die (I returned the book to the library this morning so forgive my lack of accurate quotes, ) and she dies in a drunk driving accident (either on purpose or not, but I'd argue that drinking had a lot to do with it.)

As far as Alaska being hot -- was she? JSG read a sample of the ms at a conference in March, and I developed a mental image of Alaska then, which I brought to my reading of the book yesterday. I saw her someone who was maybe pretty, but was hot to Pudge because of the way she carried herself, of how she penetrated his soul. Pudge is described as gawky but Alaska referred to him as cute and adorable. Hotness is in the eye of the beholder.

I loved the message of forgiveness and I didn't feel like it was over-the-top. I dunno, I wish I could be more articulate about this. I sent an e-mail to my crit group this morning about the book. I've been thinking about it all day. I've ordered a copy for my cousin for Christmas. It's like the characters are still settling in with me. I'm going to have to read it again.

I'm very curious to see how this is received by young adult readers. Anyone know any? ;)

**********Crap. (Verla, can I say that here?) I just went to post this and see that there have been 8 replies since I began to type this. Oooops. Sorry for any duplication of ideas.*********

****LOL -Hit post again and there is one more. Popular thread!!**********
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Cassandra on September 29, 2005, 04:18 PM
Yikes! I missed some serious posting.

Most important, welcome, John, and congratulations on your upcoming wedding!!
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: bballmom on September 30, 2005, 06:50 AM
I went to the library last night hoping to find this but our STINKING library doesn't have much.  All this discussion has me eager to read it, maybe a trip to B&N is in order.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Bohemian Princess on September 30, 2005, 07:39 AM
Thanks for joining this discussion on your book.  It is nice to have a glimpse of the author's point of view.  Please join us more often.  Congratulations! 
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Laurie on September 30, 2005, 09:00 AM
A bit of a turn of events here, I see.  Funny because I was just reading the thread on Kira-Kira and found myself wondering how I would feel as an author if I stumbled across the many negative remarks.  Ouch.  But I guess you need alligator hide to function in the publishing world, anyway....

Laurie S.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: WG on December 19, 2005, 01:22 PM
I just read the book & can see why it was a teen pick. I wish I could have taken the Old Man's Philosophy/Religion class when I was 16. But the character who I liked most was Takumi. The fox hat sealed it for me.

I don't buy that hotness is inherently subjective. Alaska is described as "the hottest girl in all of human history" before Pudge ever speaks to her. What does he have to go on? Her looks & provocative tank top. She is described as narrow-faced with sharp cheekbones, possessing ample cleavage, curvy, tiny-waisted, with skinny thighs. Yes, we get to "see" her butt up close as she somersaults out of a window, but she hardly gets stuck in the frame. Contrast the description of Alaska with that of the girl who draws herself in the buff; Pudge is no chubby chaser. And, frankly, a realistic portrait of "hotness" would have to be somewhat conventional to be realistic. Yes, there are beautiful people who are not sexually appealing to everyone. Had Pudge not liked her, Alaska would have receded into minor characterdom. My point here is not to argue that there ought to be more teen books with ugly or plain characters as the love interest. It is just to ask what's the point of equivocating?

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Athena529 on February 03, 2006, 08:21 AM
I have almost finished reading this book, and so far, I like it. Can't wait to see how it ends...
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Athena529 on February 04, 2006, 07:08 PM
Finished! The book had some great lines and I loved the way it incorporated religion and last lines within the novel. I thought the character of Alaska was almost too perfect in that wild-beautiful-confident way, but the MC seemed authentic to me.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: krw3b on March 12, 2006, 03:37 PM
Well I just finished this, and good golly, I thought it ROCKED.

I loved the characters-- thought they were complete and fully rounded. The plot construction was compelling. The humor was dead-on. And he handled a very tricky subject with absolute deftness. It was a can't-put-it -down experience for me.

It totally made me want to abandon writing all together.

So good.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: almarrone on March 12, 2006, 06:00 PM

Here's a link my friend sent me to a ny times list of YA books that don't include sex and drugs--um, Alaska is on it.  Someone obviously didn't read the book.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Cana on May 22, 2006, 07:52 PM
Yep. I was going to put this book on my shelf when I finished it. My eighth graders, without a doubt, would love it. But it's too graphic for me to put it on my shelves. I don't want to risk a parent deciding they need to censor my shelves  :uhuh, especially since I just teach math and surely don't know anything about books :n, and why do I have books in my room anyway :faint:?

I loved the book. I'll agree it was a tad slow in starting. But I really liked Alaska. It's funny, I thought her zest for life and her unusual way of looking at life was part of what Pudge liked the most about her. In contrast, it was her negative, selfish views of life that he disliked about her. I thought it was scary real. The kind of real that I want to believe (as a mother) is not really out there. I was a 'good' girl. I want to believe that smart, smart kids like these wouldn't trash themselves the way these kids did. I don't want to believe my smart, smart kids will ever do these things. His book was so real it made me think about these issues. Because, deep down, as a teacher, I know it's real. Kids do make these awful choices. All of them. (All the choices...not kids.)

The book was recommended to me by Dorian Cirrone, author of Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You. (Shameless plug.  :pp) She gave me a wonderfully helpful critique of my YA last June. She wanted me to read it for the emotional intensity. Specifically the funeral scene. I have to say the 'after' part of the book was my favorite. The emotional ping pong of the characters felt so real. I think he did a great job drawing the reader into that. The ending, for me, was satisfying only because I felt there was no real answer to dealing with the pain. We create whatever rational we can to get us through it. I thought that was what Pudge did. I didn't expect any more from him since even though he was intellectually smart, I felt he was immature and experienced in life. He's just a kid after all. The book is still with me. But I only just finished it. I'm curious whether it will have staying power or not.

Oh...and I LOVED the junior prank! Great, funny stuff there!

And congratulations on your marriage, John. I was reading your book on May 20th.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Jennifer D G on July 14, 2006, 08:08 AM
I finished reading this book over a month ago and, many novels later, the characters are still with me.  I would have loved this book as a teenager and I would have appreciated going through these life experiences with Pudge in the story.  I remember following many of the same thought processes he does but not having the words to articulate those feelings and experiences.  His pains and frustrations were very real to me.

As for whether or not Alaska was truly hot or just hot to Pudge, well, remember he loved the smell of her breath: cigarettes and stale wine.   :P
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: maddog on July 14, 2006, 09:43 AM
I am almost done with this book, and I'm really enjoying it.  I also found the beginning a bit slow and peeked ahead to "After" to find out what happened.  I was worried that They'd accidentally kill Hyde with one of their pranks.  Anyway...

This is scary real, and it's just like it was when I was a partying teenager.  I knew all those characters (except my friends weren't geniuses).  I even knew Alaska.  Except he was a boy named Mike.  A goregous god-like boy who any girl would feel lucky to be with.  He died drunk driving.  Last time I saw him he was in a coma.  It was life changing--but not life changing enough to get me and my friends to stop drinking and driving.  Luckily, we made it through those years relatively unschathed...
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Athena529 on September 28, 2006, 06:23 PM
John Green has a new book out titled AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES. Has anyone read it yet?
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: almarrone on October 01, 2006, 06:59 AM
I just finished it!  I really liked it, the mc's best friend was sooooo funny--such a great character. 
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 01, 2006, 09:02 AM
I thought that a lot of Alaska's hotness stemmed from her sexuality. She was very experienced and vocal about it and that's always hot. Especially to teenage boys who think about sex like every five seconds.

Or is it every five minutes?  ;)
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 01, 2006, 09:08 AM
Was I the only one who thought that the inexperience between Miles and the foreign girl (forgot her name, sorry) was humorous?

Makes a kind of a nice switch from hearing about those bracelet parties where kids know too much about this sort of thing.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Sam Hranac on October 01, 2006, 09:36 AM
I got a chuckle at that. It answered my question about "what are the limits in YA?" too.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Sam Hranac on October 01, 2006, 09:37 AM
Or is it every five minutes?  ;)

As I recal it was measured by scientific equipment.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Margherita on October 01, 2006, 01:12 PM
I just finished reading the book yesterday.  I found it readable enough -- obviously the writer was the acknowledged best in his college creative writing class(es) -- but I agree with katep and Cynthia that Miles doesn't really *do* anything, which didn't work for me.  I also found the more "philosophical" the narrator got the more off-putting the book became to me ...  Overall, there didn't seem to be any new ground covered or any fresh perspectives offered, and the plot itself was, as the French waiter told the gluttonous diner, "wafer-thin."  Ditto the characterization.

I am truly baffled as to why some readers react in such a strongly positive way to this book.  I will certainly check out his second book to see if this is just a first book misstep by a rather young but potentially talented writer.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: jules on October 01, 2006, 08:13 PM
My daughter read this book last year when she was 15 and LOVED it. She said it was one of the best books she ever read and wanted it in hardback, something we only do for special books. But I read it and was not crazy about it (partly because I was thinking the whole time of the ideas that might've been going into/through my daughter's head as she read it--that all kids her age do the stuff the characters in the book did and she was somehow weird or immature if she didn't. The parent in me wants to keep her thoughts pure!) I saw where she would really like it, though.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 02, 2006, 05:17 AM
As I recal it was measured by scientific equipment.

 :n  They need scientific equipment to measure that? Haha.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 02, 2006, 05:22 AM
I thought Miles not doing anything was what part of what the novel was about. His non-action was an enabling factor in the events that led to Alaska's death.
Maybe a kid will read it and realize that his drunk friend isn't invincible and that they should not be out driving?

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: GreenBeans on October 02, 2006, 06:13 AM

I agree with Sweetpea. I thought Miles reacting to those around him was part of his character, and thus, believeable for me. It explained why he had no friends at his old school. When his parents throw him that going away party and almost no one comes, that was heartbreaking.

I also liked the idea that teenagers are NOT invinceable, not even the mighty Alaska. It dealt with her death in a non-preachy way but real way.

Still, I'm not passing this one on to my young teen. There are things in there that she does not need to know. (maybe I'm being clueless and she already knows. Huh)

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Sam Hranac on October 02, 2006, 08:13 AM
The action of inaction. Hamlet got away with it. I can see teens frozen into inaction as much as taking bold action. As has been noted, it must stem from character.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Margherita on October 02, 2006, 04:04 PM
Just because his inaction was intentional didn't make it unboring.  :x

Author intention isn't everything.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Sam Hranac on October 02, 2006, 04:27 PM
I'm not saying it IS Hamlet. Just sighting a precedent.

In general I agree with your assessment.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: katep on October 02, 2006, 04:31 PM
Just because his inaction was intentional didn't make it unboring. :x

That cracked me up, Margherita. 
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Pickles on October 30, 2006, 09:44 AM
Wow, I just read the first chapter of this, and the voice absolutely blows me away. It's like melting.

Umm, it's going to be hard to get all the household chores on my to do list done, today.

I'll come back when I read more.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Pickles on October 30, 2006, 07:38 PM
Okay, I finished it. I've ignored the housework and the kids and made instant soup and grilled cheese for supper. I haven't been this swept away since reading Criss-Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins. Actually, I'm more swept. I was immediately drawn into the story and couldn't put it down because the voice was so strong, and the story swept me back to memories of my youth. And  well I'm still in awestruck mode, and having just lost a close friend, from those "first time on your own, growing up" days, I found it intensely emotional. This was a most excellent, gripping, cut you to the bone book.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: CynJay on October 30, 2006, 09:22 PM
John is coming to a bookstore here on Friday and I can't wait.  I'm going to try to be cool, no drooling or otherwise acting like an idiot.  I forget that I'm old enough to be his mother (well, babysitter anyway) and I'm afraid I'm going to come off like his number one fan.   :-X

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Pickles on October 31, 2006, 03:34 AM
Wow. Lucky you. Was he in Austin for a conference or is that my imagination?

Yes, I have to admit this book has kept me from sleeping. It haunts me.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: quester on October 31, 2006, 08:43 AM
I just finished an abundance of katherines and it is an amazing book, just not at all edgy" like waiting for alaska. John Green is my hero. Every once in a while you see someone who does everything you wish you could do as a writer, and for me that is John Green. Jealousy.

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: CynJay on October 31, 2006, 10:17 AM
I think he was in Austin last weekend, and now he's coming to the Bay Area.  Yay for us.  The reading I'm going to is at 10am on Friday morning which seems a bit wierd to me, unless they are going to let entire classes attend.  Otherwise, the place is going to be full of 40ish gals like me - not at all what they had in mind.

Looking for Alaska caused me such a crisis of confidence that I had to stop reading it while I was writing.  His website/blog is fun too.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: maddog on October 31, 2006, 10:24 AM
Try not to think of it as jealousy, Theodore, think of it as a benchmark for yourself.   :yup
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: CynJay on November 04, 2006, 05:38 PM
I got to meet John yesterday at a signing and he was adorable.  Just as funny, smart and self-deprecating as you'd imagine him to be.  Plus, he writes nice stuff in your books when he signs them.  If you get a chance to see him, I highly suggest doing so.   

He talked about this a bit, so it's not a secret, but the movie rights have been purchased for Alaska and he actually likes the screenplay.  We might not have to look too far for Alaska in the near future.  (Sorry)   
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: mandy on November 13, 2006, 10:02 PM
I LOVED Looking for Alaska.  I even volunteered to do the author report portion in my young adult lit class.

Pudge is a great protagonist that I think a lot of young people can relate to, but my favorite character was definitely Alaska.  And the writing style was absolutely wonderful and not exactly typical of YA--which is why I think it works as a crossover.  It was philosophical, intelligent, and utterly different.

I didn't think it was devoid of morals or anything.  Yeah, they did some things that people may view as "wrong," but the story has enough heart that it doesn't matter.  It's not like Gossip Girl, where everyone lies, cheats, has tons of sex, and drinks/does drugs without any consequences.  Real things happen, which is, I think, why I like it.

Unfortunately, I've LOST my copy of the book.  :(  I miss it.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: richmond8 on December 12, 2006, 08:13 PM
Sorry, but i was really underwhelmed by this book. 

Has anybody read "The Schwa Was Here"?  by Neal Schusterman.  I thought that was fantastic, with great voice, and did not rely so heavily on sex and alcohol for the action.  You could recommend "Schwa" to teens and feel good about doing so.  A boy's book that girls could like too.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: dwrites on December 12, 2006, 08:44 PM
I know this one is controversial. But I just loved it. I'm not even going to try to analyze intentions or pick apart the characters and motivations. I just loved it. Edgy, yeah. Somebody's got to do it. John does it well.

*Off to pick up The Schwa Was Here* (Which also sounds like a winner)


Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Barbara Eveleth on December 14, 2006, 10:05 AM
I ordered this for my 15 y o. She has read Prep and loved it. And she and I are both drawn to controversy. This is a girl who comes to me and asks what I would think of her if she smoked dope, and I would say something like just don't do anything stupid.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: sbk(linda) on March 30, 2007, 07:16 AM
Wow, I just finished last night and ... wow. All I could think all the way through was, "I wish I'd written this!"

I didn't find the beginning slow at all. I was swept away on the first page because of the amazing voice and the brilliant humour. I kept telling my 13 year old son, "You're gonna love this one," and now that I've read the whole thing, I've paused a bit to rethink it (mostly because of the BJ scene). But yeah, I still want him to read it. How could I keep him from such a beautifully written book - no way. He's free to read it and we'll have a nice long discussion afterwards that I'm really looking forward to.

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: richmond8 on March 30, 2007, 05:00 PM
A 13-yr-old is in what, 8th grade?  Are you sure?  There are so many other great books for a kid that age, and he'll still have many more years to enjoy Alaska in later.  Boys feel a lot of pressure to get involved in sex and alcohol from the media.  that book isn't going to help.  I know I should butt out and I'm taking a risk of people coming down on my head.  But has he read Sleeping Freshman Never Lie?  what about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas--you could have a great discussion after that book.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: sbk(linda) on March 30, 2007, 09:58 PM
you know, it's funny. I don't see this book as any kind of pressure for kids to drink and stuff. If nothing else, it puts it in a negative light. At least, I know my son well enough to know that's how he would see it. All kids have different levels of maturity and different value systems. I can trust that my son wouldn't go out and try smoking or drinking just because he read it in a book. He's got a great outlook on things. He'll read it and say, "I can't believe they were so stupid..." Would I trust my younger son to read it when he hits 13? Hell no. But he's a different kid with totally different ways of thinking.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: bethany on March 31, 2007, 04:53 AM
I teach 8th grade. They are all aware of these things. I'd say that half of them have experienced one or both of them. Probably more. I think it's great that you plan to talk to your son about it. Most kids don't have anyone talking to them about the things they see on tv, much less books. I don't think this book would have any sort of adverse affect on a thoughtful kid. Just my opinion. Obviously his mom knows him best and is the best judge.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: richmond8 on March 31, 2007, 07:35 AM
Thank you for not getting furious with me, SBK.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: sbk(linda) on March 31, 2007, 11:52 AM
Hey, Richmond, everyone has opinions, right?
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Barbara Eveleth on March 31, 2007, 04:33 PM
My daughter (almost 16) LOVES this book. She loved Prep, too.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: quester on April 08, 2007, 01:26 PM
I think an ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES might be a more friendly book for younger YA readers.

It's funny -- I went to the Bank Street Book Shop with a bunch of people from Verla's about 6 weeks ago, and the lady there looked at me blankly when I asked about John Green. I said, you know, "Looking for Alaska?"

But then I noticed they had a display with an ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES.... I think Looking For Alaska didn't make the cleaness/children's cut.

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Barbara Eveleth on May 14, 2007, 12:13 PM
Well, I haven't gotten to that part yet but I do love his writing. Reminds me a bit of A Separate Peace. Also, very easy to read.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: sbk(linda) on May 14, 2007, 12:42 PM

I just realized that I never followed up on this. My son (13) loved this book. And it wasn't about the drinking or the bj scene. What hit him was the rawness of the emotions, the shock of what can happen in the blink of an eye to change your life. He walked around the house for days just in shock of the sadness of it all (but in a good, appreciative kind of way). He talked to all his friends about it and told them all they had to read this book. I think he felt he'd actually lost one of his own friends because the characters were so real to him.

He has now also read An Abundance of Katherines and is obsessed with anagramming. John Green is now his all-time favourite author. Every book he's read since then has just gotten a shrug - "yeah, I guess it's okay but it's no Alaska or Katherines."

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: lindsey on May 14, 2007, 02:01 PM
I've heard it compared to Separate Peace, AE and I agree. I had a similar feeling after I read this book as I did Separate Peace, although I doubt I could articulate what it was. And sorry if I um, gave anything away.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: RES on May 14, 2007, 06:13 PM
When this thread popped up it reminded me that I had intended to post this earlier.

I'm an adjunct at a university and this past semester I had every student recommend a book they thought people in the class might not have read, but would enjoy. The book picks were fascinating and told me a lot about the students.

I recommended "Looking For Alaksa" as I figured many college students might not shop for books in the YA section anymore. They had never heard of it. Several students bought the book and they absolutely loved it. When I asked what they loved about it they said they felt it was "real" and that they could really relate to the characters. One student was annoyed that the book was considered YA and wondered what other books he might be missing shelved in the YA section.

So I think this book has a wide range of potential readers, don't you think? I'm not a good judge as I don't yet have children so when I'm reading something, I rarely evaluate the content for the target market. I long to get sucked into the story and "Looking for Alaska" sucked me in. I had a similar experience with "How I Live Now" by Meg Rosoff. It didn't bother me a bit that Daisy was hooking up with her cousin, I adored the writing and the story.

I love reading the posts on this board and really enjoy all of your views and opinions! Very interesting.

Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: missy t on July 01, 2007, 06:07 PM
just finished this book and i wish i had read it sooner.  it was awesome!  and it was totally not my usual style (i'm a chick lit chick :) )  i can't believe this was the author's first novel -- he truly is a master of the craft.   
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: MVP on July 05, 2007, 09:31 AM
I'm about two-thirds of the way through Looking for Alaska right now.  I was impressed from the start.  I have to say those were the most entertaining set of acknowledgments I've ever read.  I also think the story itself has got a lot of heart.  I was especially struck by the scenes of Miles with his parents and the Colonel with his mom.  I'd often heard that Looking for Alaska was "edgy" so I was kind of surpised to see these tender and believable scenes of teenagers with functional families. (OK, the Colonel's dad is dysfunctional, but the book really pays more attention to his relationship with his mother.)

So I'm liking the book a lot.  But I wouldn't have liked it when I was 15.  I was more judgemental at that age, and the fact that the kids were drinking, smoking, and having sex would have completely overshadowed their likeable qualities for me.  I wouldn't have been able to relate to them at all.

I won't be adding this book to my classroom library, either.  I'm sure some middle school kids are ready for it, but not the ones I teach.  They're a surprisingly innocent bunch, even for a private school.  They were kind of surprised when they read in Bridge to Terebithia that a seventh-grader was smoking in the school bathroom!  Sheltered and naive kids still do exist--so I hope writers and editors realize that they need books too.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: gretchenlaskas on July 05, 2007, 04:24 PM
There are a lot of wonderful YA novels that I'd be reluctant to have in a middle school classroom, though I might give them out to a specific individual who is that age depending on who they were and how well I knew them.  Part of the problem is the term "YA" means anything from 12 and up, and of course you always have some really mature readers (meaning they read better than other students their age, not necessarily that they are ready for mature material) who are reading these books as young as ten. 
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Cassandra on July 06, 2007, 01:27 PM

Leeth, your daughter hiding the book reminded me of when I was in a used book store with my dad and I was looking for the Judy Blume books TIGER EYES and FOREVER.  Instead, I found Wifey. Wow, I thought. A whole different Judy Blume book. I was so excited when I gave it to my dad to add to his pile of sci-fi and didn't even think to peel inside. I think was 15ish, but I could have been a year or two older. I don't remember. But I do remember reading it in my backyard. I admit, I didn't understand it all, but I loved reading it. The previous owner had even highlighted certain passages to make sure future readers didn't miss the good stuff.

My reading joy was quickly replaced with panic when I realized that I couldn't let anyone know what I'd been reading. I was terrified --not of getting into trouble, but of  the "let's have an honest conversation with our teenager" reaction that my MFCC mother was sure to have.

I literally snuck the book into the trash can the night before trash pick-up to make sure it was not found. I was still worried that some dog or raccoon would knock over the cans and leave the book blowing around on our street.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: kellyr on August 08, 2007, 05:59 PM
On the plane on the way home from the LA SCBWI conference, I read Looking for Alaska. I laughed a little, cried a lot.  I found the central event in the story to be the thing that was the "edgiest" about it -- the drinking and smoking certainly weren't glamorized, and the blow job scene was great for comic relief, and necessary for some parts of the story development, but it was described fairly tamely, really. 

John Green's willingness to really go there, to the depths of the emotions that are associated with the event in the middle of the book and its ramifications, impressed me no end.  His characters were realistically rendered, the events are all things that occur in the lives of teens, and his willingness to contemplate big questions of faith and death and afterlife and forgiveness make this a book that follows you around even after you've put it down.

Kids may pick it up and pass it around for the blow job scene, but if they read it, they'll come away with little gratification on that count, but lots of good messages about life.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Joni on August 15, 2007, 10:39 AM
Adding my two cents, finally got around to this one and glad I did. While I personally didn't like Alaska as a character very much for various reasons, and I agree with the earlier poster who questioned whether anyone in the book would have liked her either, or at least put up with so much crap from her, if she wasn't a babe, I do think this is a brilliant novel and John G. is an amazing writer. This is another book that made me think, "wow, THIS is a debut novel?" Wish I could write like that. Kudos, John, if you're still following this thread.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: Carol Anne on February 02, 2010, 06:48 PM
I just finished reading this book. I really can't remember when I've enjoyed a Y.A. book this much. I LOVED it. And if I die being able to write half as well as John Green, I'll be happy. What a brilliant storyteller.
Title: Re: Looking for Alaska
Post by: wolfie712 on February 14, 2012, 10:26 PM
Carol Anne, I could've written your post.  This is one of the best Y.A. books I've ever read, and I was simply blown away by the quality of the writing.  LOVED. IT.