Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Looking for Alaska (copy)

I have a new favorite author, John Green. I haven’t even finished the book and am in love with him. The book is Looking for Alaska and in 2006 it won the edgy Printz Award.

Oh, you have not heard of this award? Do not worry. It is new. As part of the American Library Association’s plethora of awards the website states, “The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association.”

Most Printz award books are written in a style called realistic fiction. This genre of fiction exposes readers to adult situations such as drinking, drugs, and sex allowing them to live vicariously through the main young-adult characters. Not as a cautionary tale per se, for these characters can make really bad decisions and get away with them, but as a rich telling of today’s society mirrored in books.

In Looking for Alaska, Miles Halter, quickly nicknamed Pudge by his new roommate because he is so skinny, is attending the Culver Creek Preparatory School in Fair Hope, Alabama. This is his first year and roommate, Chip “Colonel” Martin, is filling him in on the goings and comings of his new school. Pudge learns quickly the kids are broken into two groups: the Weekday Warriors who have money and spend their weekends at home and “the wrong crowd.” As a middle class student who will be spending all his semesters on campus, he correctly deducts he will be a member of the wrong crowd.

Entering “The Creek” is all Pudge’s idea. His father and his father’s father and his grandfather’s father all attended, but that isn’t his reason. He is going to this school—miles away from his Florida home—in order to seek the “Great Perhaps.”

See, Pudge has a quirky talent. He memorizes the dying words of famous people. His favorite, Francois Rabelais, gasped, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” He figures he will seek while alive.

Looking for Alaska is broken into two parts: before and after. In the before section the chapters are titled in countdown fashion like “one hundred one days before.” I hate to be vague, but there is a huge possibility I will give away the ending if not. I will tell you that Alaska is a knock-out female character who causes the before and after.

Another point of view from Tricia at Library Queue.