What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book hits all the controversial pulse points: drinking, sex, bad language, and smoking, including marijuana smoking, but as Michael Cart, former president of the Young Adult Library Services Association and former chair of the Michael L. Printz committee, says in the publisher's discussion guide, "There is nothing (I repeat, NOTHING) gratuitous in this book. Everything in it serves to define character, give style to voice, and develop theme." Indeed, this award-winning book is on many high school reading lists and can help both teachers and parents talk about loss, friendship, and the importance of self discovery.
What's the story?
Miles, tired of his friendless, dull life in Florida, convinces his parents to send him away to boarding school in Alabama so that he can seek "the Great Perhaps." There he meets his roommate and soon-to-be best friend, Chip, called the Colonel, and Alaska Young, the moody, gorgeous, wild girl who instantly becomes the object of his lust. Miles is quickly enlisted in their war against the Weekday Warriors, the rich kids who go home every weekend, and they bond over elaborate pranks, studying, and assorted rule-breaking. About halfway through the book a tragedy occurs, and those left spend the rest of the book trying to make sense of it, to solve the mystery it leaves behind, and to pull off one last, greatest-ever prank.
Is it any good?
This book richly deserves the awards it has won. It's gorgeously written -- passionate, hilarious, moving, thought-provoking, character-driven, and literary. 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. This 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.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the book's mature content. In a YouTube video, author John Green defends the book's frank sex scene, calling it purposely "wholly unerotic" and asks critics, "Do you seriously think that teens aren't able to read critically?" Do you agree with his point of view?
What does Miles mean when he goes off to boarding school in search of what Francois Rabelais called "the Great Perhaps?" Do we all need to go on a similar search to discover ourselves?