Saturday, October 10, 2009

Banned, Censored, Challenged: Looking For Alaska

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.


Miss_Nobody said...

I like the cover,very mysterious.Many books contain such things as teen smoking and the other things you mentioned,but that doesn't stop them from being good books.Parents should let the kids decide for themselves.
Oh,and I'm taking part in a book event Around the World in eighty days-in each Michael has sent out a copy of the book to be returned to him at the end of eighty days.Its a way of linking international bloggers and Bookpusher is passing it on to me(she was the second on stop).I was wondering if you were interested,if you are please email me @

AngieOnTheNYIslesScene said...

In all honesty, Looking for Alaska is one of my favorite teen novels- well-written, deep and completely satisfying as far as teen novels go (and I don't read many). The fact that it was banned is ridiculous; Green writes the scenes that are "pornographic" so well that they aren't porn at all. They're simply descrptions of the characters' actions.

Anonymous said...

I am a 15 year old girl that goes to high school. I checked this out from my school library and when I read it I thought it was a great book. Of course I read it because of Nerdfighteria but still I read it.

There was one 'sex scene' and it was awkward and only a couple paragraphs. I have heard worse walking through the halls! People ranting about this book being Porn are crazy! They pick out the 3 pages that have something bad on it and they go crazy.

If people are worried about their kids reading this they should talk about it with their kids instead of having them make stupid decisions.

There is also lot's of drinking in it but it brings nothing but trouble throughout the book.

I felt it was a great book that everyone my age should read because it made sense and talked about the things that I feel.

Looking for Alaska is the best book I might ever read.