"Alaska the girl and Alaska the place"

John Green. Looking for Alaska. New York: Penguin Group, 2005.

Miles "Pudge" Halter is tired of his safe life with his parents in Florida. One of his favorite activities is collecting famous last words of authors by reading biographies in his father's library. Particularly one quote has fascinated him. The poet Francois Rabelais' last words: "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." This is what Miles is expecting as he leaves his home to go to Culver Creek Boarding School. When Miles arrives at the boarding school, he meets his roommate, the Colonel, who becomes his friend. The Colonel is the one who gives Miles his nickname, "Pudge," because he is so skinny. The two boys meet the rest of the new students. Among them is Alaska, a mysterious, intelligent, sexy, funny, but also self-destructive girl. Pudge falls in love with her pretty quickly, and he is sure that he is now close to the Great Perhaps. Green introduces many controversial topics with this novel, including teen sex, drug abuse and teen suicide. It would be a great book for students to read with an instructor who can help them recognize what is happening within the text. Some parents may frown upon the teaching of it, but we would argue that these issues occur daily within the students lives and this could provide them with another way of talking about their troubles if they don't feel comfortable talking about these issues with parents or family. Teens easily relate to the action of this story, and therefore would find it to be an interesting and engaging read.

One night changes everything for Pudge and the Colonel. After this nothing is ever the same, and they have to go looking for Alaska.

Recommendations for Teachers
Often times, capturing the attention of young adults through a novel can be a difficult task. However, John Green's novel, Looking for Alaska, is able to grab the reader and pull them into the story from the first few pages. Through his language and content John Green is able to accurately tell a story about teenagers, which is engaging and relatable. Students can most likely connect to the main character "Pudge" since at times they may desire to start their lives in a new place. Many teenagers often wonder how it would be to rebuild their entire life in a new place where no one knows a thing about them. In a time when students are still searching and discovering themselves, a novel such as Looking for Alaska may be of great interest to them.

Teachers might also consider teaching this novel because it is a story told from the male perspective. Educators often discuss the fact that the male students often are the least interested or motivated in reading. Because this story is told from a teenage boy, it is possible that the male students will find it easier to identify with the male protagonist. This story is relevant to their age group and it is current, thus offering a more realistic view of male teenagers today.

Although this novel has many great qualities to bring to the classroom, the teacher must realize it has been the source of much censureship controversy. There is some choice language, sexual content and various subject matter involved in the novel. The novel also contains underage drinking, extreme and sometimes illegal pranks and tobacco use. A teacher should inform parents and guardians of the novel and why it is being taught since the subject matter is somewhat controversial. Also, a teacher must consider that there are some subjects which may be difficult for some students to discuss such as suicide and physical abuse.

About John Green
external image 200px-John_Green_in_Minneapolis.jpgCapturing the mindset of a young adult may be difficult for an adult to do, but it proved no challenge for author John Green. His vivid descriptions and highlighting of emotions as though he himself is the age of the protagonist grasps the reader's attention. John Green published his first novel, Looking for Alaska, in 2005. The writer and novel's success became clear through the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature and being a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize. John Green's own life and experiences are tied in with his novel Looking for Alaska with the school Culver Creek (Green attended a boarding school in Alabama resembling Culver Creek). John Green's other novel An Abundance of Katherines came out in 2006, and received the same awards and nominations as did Looking for Alaska. John graduated from Kenyon College in 2000 with a double major in English and Religious Studies. The idea for his book Looking for Alaska came from his six months working as a chaplain at a children's hospital.
John Green finished his newest novel Paper Towns which became number 5 on the New York Times bestseller list for children's books. Both the novel Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns are in the process of being turned into feature films. Green currently resides in Indiana with his wife.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

The first video below is somewhat of a synopsis of the book from a librarian. Warning, there are some spoilers involved!

The next two videos is the author John Greene answering questions from people. These don't necessarily address the Looking for Alaska directly.

At the bottom of the page there is a link to the YouTube user page for John and Hank Green. Below, is a video from that page in which John Green defends his novel and reasons why it should not be removed from a high school curriculum.

Additional Resources:
Here are some links on the author, the novel and to supplement some of the issues highlighted within the novel:
  • Brotherhood 2.0 - This is a link to the YouTube userpage where John Green and his brother Hank have been blogging
  • John Green's Homepage - This is John Green's websites. It contains information on the novels he has written and his own personal blog.
  • John Green on Wikipedia - For some information on John Green
  • Looking For Alaska on Wikipedia - For some information on plot and controversy over Looking for Alaska check out this link.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline - If you or someone you know has fallen victim to domestic violence, or you just want more information, check this website out. The Colonel and his mom might have found this site useful.
  • Break the Cycle - This organization is dedicated to engage, educate and empower the youth to make a change in their communities. This organization specifically works with domestic and dating violence.
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - For more information on suicide and tips on how to prevent suicide check out this site.
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education - As one of the first suicide prevention organizations, the website gives information on preventing suicide, knowing the signs and dealing with loss.
  • The Cool Spot - This is a website devoted to the youth and peer pressure. This contains information on drug and alcohol use as well as peer pressure.
  • National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Info - This website has a wealth of information on Alcohol and Drugs

--Jennifer, Jessica, Ola