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Monday, June 6, 2011

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Okay, so I started my day by reading this article from yesterday in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Darkness Too Visible," linked here  by Meghan Cox Gurdon. The subtitle is "Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?"

While Ms Gurdon makes some thought-provoking points and I'm quite certain that she would use Looking for Alaska by John Green as an example of what she refers to in her headline, what she would likely miss in the explicit parts of the Alaska's story (which CAN be a bit over-the-top at times) would be the genuine gifts the story offers as well. Teen years are tough and for a teen (even a fictional one) to offer the articulated realization is priceless "...She must have come to feel so powerless, I thought that the one thing she might have done--pick up the phone and call an ambulance--never even occurred to her. There comes a time when we realize that our parents cannot save themselves or save us , that everyone who wades through time eventually gets dragged out to sea by the undertow--that, in short, we are all going."

Instead of this book getting stuck in the tragedy Alaska's story, the patient reader is offered a great deal of food for thought... one tidbit is the unmistakable offering of "life as gift" and "every life makes a difference". As the author states:

"When adults say, 'Teenagers think they are invincible' with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are ....like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations....But the part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail."

This book isn't likely to be one I'll recommend to most of my youngish middle-school readers, but there are always a few for whom this story will resonate and make them pause to reflect and I'll certainly keep this story in my repertoire of suggestions.

By the way another point of view to the teen lit controversy is offered by author Laurie Halse Anderson linked here ... thought provoking!

My ranking:      Alaska...my first summer read :)

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