Looking for Alaska by John Green is a 2005 Young Adult novel about a 16 year old named Miles Halter who goes through a series of new experiences at a Culver Creek boarding school in Alabama (fictional). The author went to a similar boarding school in his teen years and the story is based on his experiences there, including the deaths of two students in a car crash.
The novel contains one oral sex scene and a scene where two of the teens come across a pornographic movie- they watch it and one character, Alaska criticizes it for objectifying women, not being romantic, etc and turns it off. The novel also depicts a lot of teen smoking and drinking.
In Depew High School, near Buffalo, New York, two teachers chose to use the book for instruction in an 11th grade class. They let parents know that it contained controversial content by sending home a letter, letting parents know that a substitute book was available if they wanted. A few students did choose the substitute. The book was challenged anyway by parents who said it was "pornographic" and "disgusting". It was retained.
I just finished Looking for Alaska, literally minutes ago. As far as how I liked it, it was okay- it certainly had powerful writing and fascinating characters. It was not "pornographic"- this was not intended to shock or titillate but simply to explore the topic of teen sexuality. It was a remarkably intelligent book and managed to rise above the condescension that teen novels usually have. I was off my literary diet with this one, yet I couldn't help but appreciate the depth of this novel. Particularly the way it explores life & death.
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