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Looking for Alaska

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nina nelson

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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 process...how 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.



Nina
#1 - June 30, 2005, 01:07 PM

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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
#2 - June 30, 2005, 02:00 PM

Bohemian Princess

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I couldn't agree more.  I think he is a genius.  This is one book I loved, even when it made me cry.
#3 - June 30, 2005, 02:09 PM

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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!
#4 - July 16, 2005, 10:01 PM

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 :books:

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
#5 - July 17, 2005, 12:36 PM

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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!)

 :writing3:


#6 - July 27, 2005, 09:56 AM

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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!!! 

Lisa
#7 - July 27, 2005, 10:41 AM
The Bridge From Me to You, Scholastic
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Charmed Life series
http://www.lisaschroederbooks.com

katep

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I enjoyed the first half more, too.  The second half seemed to cross the bridge into Madison County territory.

#8 - August 05, 2005, 08:48 AM

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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?
#9 - August 07, 2005, 08:22 PM
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katep

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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?
#10 - August 08, 2005, 11:57 AM

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  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?
#11 - August 10, 2005, 01:46 PM

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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.
#12 - August 11, 2005, 07:36 AM
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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. 
#13 - September 27, 2005, 11:18 AM

Audiate

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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?
#14 - September 27, 2005, 02:05 PM

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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.

Tracy
#15 - September 28, 2005, 12:13 AM

Loretta

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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
#16 - September 28, 2005, 05:06 AM

Aud

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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.
#17 - September 28, 2005, 07:23 AM

katep

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Did Miles actually do anything other than react?

#18 - September 28, 2005, 09:04 AM

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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 (uh...so 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.
#19 - September 28, 2005, 07:25 PM
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katep

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Well said, Cynthia. 
#20 - September 29, 2005, 08:49 AM

john

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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
#21 - September 29, 2005, 02:12 PM

john

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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.
#22 - September 29, 2005, 02:19 PM

Aud

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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.)
#23 - September 29, 2005, 02:33 PM

thx1978

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Great comments, Cynthia (congrats, John).
#24 - September 29, 2005, 02:52 PM

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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!
~Elle
#25 - September 29, 2005, 03:20 PM

katep

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Ahem.  Tank top.  Appreciate the big butt, though, John! 
#26 - September 29, 2005, 03:23 PM

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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.
#27 - September 29, 2005, 03:29 PM
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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.)

-Pamela
(they better say something nice) :>
#28 - September 29, 2005, 04:05 PM

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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.

First -SPOILER WARNING -DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK YET

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!!**********
#29 - September 29, 2005, 04:16 PM

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Yikes! I missed some serious posting.

Most important, welcome, John, and congratulations on your upcoming wedding!!
#30 - September 29, 2005, 04:18 PM

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