Looking for Alaska
|Looking for Alaska|
|Genre(s)||Young adult novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Classification||PZ7.G8233 Lo 2005|
Looking for Alaska is a young adult novel by John Green, published in March 2005 by Dutton Juvenile. Green's first novel won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association. During the week of July 29, 2012, Looking for Alaska broke into the New York Times best seller list at number ten in Children's Paperback, 385 weeks after it was released.
Looking for Alaska opens as the protagonist, Miles Halter, leaves his home in Florida to attend Culver Creek Preparatory High School in Alabama for his junior year. He uses Francois Rabelais’s last words—"I go to seek a Great Perhaps"—as his argument for leaving home at such a ripe age in order to seek said Perhaps before he dies. Miles is fond of reading biographies, and particularly of memorizing the subjects' last words.
Soon after arriving at Culver Creek, Miles meets his roommate, Chip "The Colonel" Martin. The Colonel soon provides Miles with his very own nickname: "Pudge," supposedly ironic as Miles is tall and slender. The friendship between the two roommates leads to an introduction to the Colonel’s friend, Alaska Young. Alaska is described as an attractive yet emotionally unstable girl. Pushing aside the moments of her rage, Pudge develops his first crush. The eve of his first day at Culver Creek, Pudge is grabbed out of his bed, duct-taped, and tossed into a nearby lake by the "Weekday Warriors," a group of rich, stuck up, Birmingham-area students of Culver Creek. The "Weekday Warriors" earned their title because during the weekdays they stay at the school, while over the weekends, they get to go back to their "perfect, air-conditioned lives in Birmingham." The tossing of new students into the school lake is a customary prank, the duct-taping, however, is not, leading the Colonel to understand that this was not just an ordinary prank. After taking part in a prank war with the weekday warriors, the Colonel and his friends become closer to one another. Pudge eventually ends up falling for Alaska. One night, whilst drinking, Alaska and Pudge hook up. Alaska then receives a phone call and then freaks out. She enlists the help of the Colonel and Pudge in order for her to escape from Culver Creek. They comply, but do not know where or why Alaska is acting the way she is. The first chapter of the "After" shows The Colonel and Pudge finding that letting Alaska go resulted in her death. Devastated, the remainder of the book revolves around the Colonel and Pudge try to uncover the mystery behind her death. Pudge and his gang also plan a prank in Alaska's honor. In the end, they find out that she was off to see her mother's grave, as Alaska felt responsible for her death and had visited the grave every year on the anniversary of her mother's death. However, she forgot this year and was in a rush to go to her mother's grave.
- Miles "Pudge" Halter
- The novel's protagonist, who has an unusual interest in learning famous people's last words. He goes to the boarding school Culver Creek in search of his own "Great Perhaps". Tall and skinny, his friends at Culver ironically nickname him "Pudge". He is attracted to Alaska Young, who for most of the novel does not return his feelings. He is frequently compared to Holden Caulfield of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.
- Alaska Young
- The wild, self-destructive, moody, unpredictable, beautiful and enigmatic girl who captures Miles' attention and heart.
- Chip "The Colonel" Martin
- 5 feet tall but "built like Adonis", he is Alaska's best friend and Miles' roommate. Gets his nickname from being the strategic mastermind behind the schemes that Alaska concocts. Comes from a poor background. He is obsessed with loyalty and honor.
- Takumi Hikohito
- A surprisingly gifted MC and friend of Alaska and Chip, who often feels left out of Miles, Chip, and Alaska's plans.
- Lara Buterskaya
- A Romanian immigrant. She is Alaska's friend and, for a short time, Miles' girlfriend.
- Mr. Starnes "The Eagle"
- The Dean of students at Culver Creek. He is very strict when it comes to things like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol on campus, but generally cares for students. He is pranked by Miles, Chip, Alaska, Takumi and Lara multiple times throughout the novel.
- 'Dr. Hyde
- Dr Hyde is the World Religions teacher at Culver Creek. He is described as ancient and has trouble breathing. Although he is hindered by these things he is extremely passionate about this subject and his classes, and Miles admires him for that.
The book has been challenged for content dealing with sexually explicit situations. Two teachers at Depew High School near Buffalo, New York, used the book for eleventh grade instruction. A letter was sent to parents advising the book contained controversial content. An alternate reading selection was available for those opting out, and a small percentage of parents chose this option. Nevertheless, the book was challenged on the grounds that it is "pornographic" and "disgusting". One parent even went as far as refusing to read the book himself, reportedly saying that "One does not need to have cancer to diagnose cancer". The book was ultimately retained by the school board after a unanimous school board vote. The author defended his book on his vlog.
In March 2012, The Knoxville Journal in Knoxville, Tennessee, reported that a parent of a 15-year-old Karns High School student objected to the book's placement on the Honors and Advanced Placement class required reading list for Knox County High Schools on the grounds that its sex scene and its use of profanity rendered it pornography.
The main characters in the story are teenagers who also drink, smoke and use explicit language. The author has publicly defended his work. "Some people say, 'You wrote a dirty, dirty book.' But there are very old-fashioned values and even a lot of religion in it," Green said. "There are some adults who think that the only kind of ethics that matter are sexual ethics. So they miss everything else that is going on in the book." Green also said, "The book has never been marketed to 12-year-olds. Never. It is packaged like an adult book; it doesn't even say it's published by a kids' book imprint on the cover, and it's never shelved in the children's section of bookstores."
Green attended Indian Springs School, a boarding and day school outside of Birmingham, Alabama. During the time he was a student there, a student died under circumstances similar to one of the characters in the novel.
According to John Green himself at a book talk in Rivermont Collegiate on October 19, 2006, he got the idea of Takumi's "fox hat" from a Filipino friend who wore a similar hat while playing pranks at Indian Springs School. From the same book talk, Green also stated that the "possessed" swan in Culver Creek came from his student life at Indian Springs School as well, where there was also a swan of similar nature on the campus. The two pranks that occur in the book are similar to pranks that Green pulled at his high school. Green has also stated, while giving a talk at Indian Springs, that several of Culver Creek's teachers are direct caricatures of multiple faculty members at Indian Springs.
Cover design 
In an August 2012 vlog, Green revealed details regarding the cover design of Looking for Alaska. Green acknowledged the fact that the supposedly extinguished candle did lead to an "improbable amount of smoke", and thus revealed that the initial cover design did not feature the candle. Green then revealed that certain book chains were uncomfortable about displaying or selling the book because they did not want to encourage what looked like cigarette smoke - which Green revealed was the actual 'cause' of the smoke. Thus, book chains added the candle beneath the smoke so that they weren't promoting smoking.
In John Green's box set, released on October 25, 2012, the candle element of the cover of Looking for Alaska has been removed, and features the original cover design.
Film adaptation 
The film rights to the novel were acquired by Paramount Pictures in 2005. The screenplay was potentially going to be written and directed by Josh Schwartz (creator of The OC), but due to a lack of interest by Paramount Studios the production has been shelved indefinitely.
- American Library Association (2010). "Michael L. Printz Winners and Honor Books". Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- "Children's Paperback Books". Retrieved 15 September 2012.
- Winchester, Laura E (2008-02-06). "Depew School Board Committee Will Review 'Coming-of-Age' Novel". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
- Green, John. "I Am Not A Pornographer". Vlogbrothers Channel. Published as a YouTube video.
- Hall, Wes (2012-03-09). "Pornographic required reading in Knox Schools?". The Knoxville Journal. Archived from the original on 2012-06-09. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- Corbett, Sue (2005-09-05). "Why YA and Why Not: Blurring the Line Between Traditionally Distinct Markets.". Retrieved 2007-03-13.[dead link]
- Green, John. "John Green's Weblog: I Am Not a Pornographer". Retrieved 2008-02-09.
- MacPherson, Karen (2006-11-07). "John Green: From Bad Boy to Printz Award Winner". Scripps Howard News Service. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
- Green, John (2006-03-28). "What to do About Sexually Explicit Teen Books?" (Blog). AS IF! Authors Support Intellectual Freedom. AS IF!. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- Mendelsohn, Aline (2005-02-21). "From Last Words to First Book". The Orlando Sentinel.
- Green, John. "Questions about Looking for Alaska (SPOILERS!): Questions about Writing and Inspiration". http://johngreenbooks.com.
- YouTube - John Green's Legendary High School Prank
- YouTube - Vlogbrothers, "In Which the Candle Dies" retrieved 28-Aug-12
- "Interview with Josh Schwartz". summer 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
- "John Green New York Times Bestselling Author - Movie Questions". Retrieved 15 September 2012.
- Bob Carlton (2005-03-13). "One-time Indian Springs student finds his way in first novel".
- Looking For Alaska is on the ALA 2005 Teens' Top Ten
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