John Green is a lot of things: YouTube celebrity, award-winning author, father, pizza lover, and a man who has actually posted a video on the internet where he draws on himself with permanent marker. One thing he has famously argued, however, is that he is definitely not a pornographer (nor is he a member of The New Pornographers, but that has little bearing as more than a semi-nonsensical aside). It is not often that one argues that point, as rarely does one get accused of being a pornographer. But in the instance of John Green's debut novel Looking for Alaska (a winner of the ALA's Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature); it's not hard to see why it would drum up controversy.
You see, Looking for Alaska has a smattering of elements that read like a top ten list of "Things Parents Don't Want Their Precious Babies Becoming Involved With": smoking, drinking, swearing, sex, skipping class, elaborate pranks, swearing, lying to parents, hiring strippers, religious discourse and more. The story revolves around the teenaged Pudge (nicknamed under the same conceit as gargantuan men with meat-mallet hands with the name 'Tiny'), who moves off to a boarding high school in Alabama during his junior year. The book then details the adventures and misadventures of Pudge and the group of friends he makes, most important of which is the titular Alaska, the beautiful blonde girl whom Pudge becomes infatuated with.
With seemingly demonic swans, eagle-eyed teachers, assignments delving into the great mysteries of life, there's actually a fair amount of depth to this book. If I had one major complaint (ignoring the many little fiddly details that make it obvious this is Mr. Green's first novel), it is that the very end of the book reads much like the famous conclusion to beloved Brat Pack movie The Breakfast Club, but instead of a letter about the fundaments and challenges of teenage identity in high school, we receive Pudge's essay on the meaning of the afterlife and existence itself. If you think that sounds more than a little pretentious, you are more than a little correct. That said, it doesn't spoil the book in the least, and it's definitely worth your time to check this book out.
Tim @ Central