A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This book is on many school reading lists; teachers interested in adding it to their curriculum can find a thorough discussion guide on the publisher's website. Teachers and parents can use Green's novel as a way to talk about big issues, such as loss and growing up, or explore the book's literary language or unusual structure to talk about the art of writing.
Looking for Alaska will give older teens a lot to think about, most obviously about loss and what it means to journey into a "Great Perhaps." When it comes to guilt and grief, it's important to forgive not only others but also ourselves. People deal with loss and responsibility in different ways.
Positive Role Models
Even though the main characters often behave badly, readers will respond to the realistic teens here who come together to face a devastating loss. Also, every adult is warm, caring, and intelligent: The parents, the teachers, the local cop -- even the requisite rigid disciplinarian who enforces the rules at school is not clueless, has a sense of humor, and cares deeply about the students.
Violence & Scariness
A fatal car wreck, a possible suicide, and a character has gruesome dreams about the wreck and its aftermath. Cruel pranks are played on Miles and the other characters as well that often result in plans for revenge.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Most of the teen characters have lost their virginity, and there are some descriptions of heavy kissing, oral sex, groping, references to masturbation, erections, making out, watching pornography, etc. Author John Green has described the frank sex scene as "wholly unerotic," especially in contrast to the book's next more intimate (but less graphic) encounter.
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Occasional strong language, including "ass," "s--t," and f--k," in realistic teen dialogue.
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Products & Purchases
Fast food restaurants, soda brands mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots of underage drinking, fake IDs, drunkenness and hangovers, drunk driving, etc., but it's alcohol is not glamorized. Nor is the constant smoking or references to marijuana.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that John Green's Looking for Alaska won the Michael J. Printz Award and many other literary awards. It's the story of a group of fun-loving, rule-breaking teens who are rocked by a tragedy and must process the grief and loss. There's lots of sex (descriptions of heavy kissing, oral sex, groping, references to masturbation, erections, making out, watching pornography), drinking, strong language (including "s--t" and f--k"), and smoking, including of marijuana, but nothing is gratuitous or glamorized. It all illuminates character and theme. This award-winning book is considered a modern classic and is on many high school reading lists. It can help both teachers and parents talk about loss, friendship, and the importance of self-discovery.
Is It Any Good?
This coming-of-age novel is gorgeously written, passionate, hilarious, moving, thought-provoking, character-driven, and literary. It deserves all the awards it's won. The characters may often behave badly, but they are vividly real, complex, and beautifully drawn -- and their stories can help readers start dealing with some big topics, like self-discovery and loss. Looking for Alaska is a hard one to put down. Since new chapters don't start on new pages, there's always a temptation to read just a little bit further. For the first half at least, readers will be grinning all the way -- and in the end, they will be moved, maybe even to tears.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.