July 11, 2012

Book Review: Looking For Alaska

My Review

After finishing John Green's The Fault In Our Stars, I decided to go ahead & read Looking For Alaska, his previous book.  Looking For Alaska got a little bit of press recently in Tennessee because it was banned in some local schools.  As I was talking to Tiffany about it, she reminded me that she sent it to me last year.  I decided to read it & see what all the hype was about.  A few thoughts:
  • I liked Looking For Alaska, but not as much as The Fault In Our Stars.
  • I love coming-of-age, boarding school books, but this one fell a little short for me.  Maybe because it's YA?  
  • If you're also interested in coming-of-age/boarding schools books, I recommend Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

My Final Thoughts

If I remember correctly, this book was banned because of an oral sex scene.  After I finished the book, I had to really sit down & try to remember what I had read that was worthy of it being banned.  It wasn't until someone reminded me that it was oral sex that I remembered a brief, inconsequential oral sex scene early-ish in the book.  It's not sexy & it's definitely not pornographic.  If anything, it's the 2012 version of two high school girls teaching each other how to French kiss.  John Green has a good take on his book being banned.  He says:
It never even occurred to me that it might be a problem while I was writing it.  I got nervous when the book came close to publication, though.  I have to give full credit to my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel.  She was absolutely steadfast about refusing to censor the novel, even when I wasn't.  My friend David Levithan once said of gay writers, "We are political novelists who do not wish to be political."  I feel a bit of that when it comes to banning books from classrooms & libraries.  I don't want to have to fight that fight, but I won't shirk the responsibility I feel to my books & my readers.  Teachers have been trained to teach, & they know how to teach, & we need to fight to let them teach uncensored books - whether it's Catcher in the Rye (or Alaska, for that matter) - in an English class or evolution in a biology class.
Well said.  I like John Green.  I like his writing style & I like the characters he creates.  This book didn't do it for me, but I will happily & eagerly read the next book he puts out.  For anyone who's read Looking For Alaska, I highly recommend The Fault In Our Stars.  I think you'll agree that his writing improved in the six years between the two books.

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