Sunday, April 21, 2013

Looking for Alaska - by John Green

Last week the American Library Association released its list of the ten most challenged books of 2012. I immediately recognized one of them, Looking for Alaska, as the one my daughter accidently left behind when she went back to her boarding school after a weekend visit. I really had no choice but to start reading it myself. And, I stand by what I wrote in my post about the book Testimony - parents of kids in boarding school shouldn't read books about boarding schools (Harry Potter of course not withstanding). Knowing what I do about book challenges, it is not hard to figure out why this one made the list: underage drinking, suicide, questioning of authority, and teen sex all figure prominently, including an unforgettable passage in which one teen, Alaska, gives instruction on how to perform fellatio to two of her classmates using a tooth-paste tube. With such busy social lives pulling pranks and giving blow job lessons it is no wonder these kids don't seem to have time to use the school's library. The only three times it is mentioned is as the location  of one of the many pranks (a Volkswagen Beetle was placed inside), the place where the "Weekday Warriors" (the rich kids who went home on the weekends) sat outside of, and a place where Miles "Pudge" Halter sometimes spots young Lara (from whose lesson in the performance of oral sex he was the direct beneficiary). Although we have no direct knowledge of Alaska using the library, she does keep a personal Life's Library which "filled her bookshelves and then overflowed into waist-high stacks of books...piled haphazardly against walls". However, she explains to her new friend Miles that she'll have "more time to read them when [she's] old and boring." Right now "there is so much to do: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on." Alaska's Life's Library also becomes the object of a prank, and sadly many of the books are destroyed.

Based on the marker my daughter placed in this book, she has not yet gotten to the tooth-paste tube episode. I imagine she will die a thousand deaths when she realizes I not only read it, but blogged about it as well.

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