Looking for Alaska

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Looking for Alaska TV Poster Image
Popular YA book yields excellent series for mature teens.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Story centers on characters' search for purpose and truth in their lives and how it's influenced by relationships with others. Characters are looking for inspiration, a way to leave a mark on the world, but lack direction at times. This leads to some rule-breaking and mean-spirited pranks with repercussions for other people but rarely significant ones for themselves. Themes of friendship and challenging stereotypes, though in some instances, prejudice seems to prevail.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adults tend to be militaristic, domineering. The Eagle is always on the hunt for rule breakers, threatening to expel for any infraction. Miles' parents allow him freedom but constantly question his reasons. Teens don't always make the most responsible decisions, sometimes engage in behavior that's illegal, but at heart of what they do is a deep desire to find themselves and their direction in life.


Kissing, making out between teens. At least one scene shows a couple having sex in bed, with the guy's naked backside visible briefly. Talk of STDs, other sexual topics, always in casual and carefree terms. Miles' father advises him to keep his "pecker in his pants."


Frequent use of "f--k," "f--king," "goddamn," "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," "damn," etc.


The series is based on the novel of the same name by John Green.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes and marijuana, usually without consequence.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Looking for Alaska is a dramatic miniseries based on a young adult book of the same name and features the kind of fascinating character development and teen insight that has helped author John Green become a mainstay in the genre. That said, the series is rife with strong language (pretty much anything goes, from "damn" to "f--k" in every possible use) and other adult behavior that the teens have to work hard to obscure in order to avoid expulsion from their boarding school. A bedroom scene reveals a guy's naked backside as a couple makes out, several teens drink and buy alcohol with fake credentials, and smoking is fairly commonplace. There's also a subtle darkness to some of the characters and their backstories, hinting at unpleasant realities in their lives. This story touches on issues like racial and socioeconomic inequality, prejudice, and the challenging of society's norms in honest and sometimes uncomfortable ways, encouraging viewers to think on them after the show's end. Because of its mature content, this series is intended for older teens and adults.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byAaron C. June 6, 2020

Nice coming-of-age Drama is perfect for mature teens.

Looking for Alaska is a nice, teen drama which is worth watching. Ut has some mature content like strong language & some mild sexual content _ nudity.
Teen, 14 years old Written by118816cupcakes August 12, 2021

Some significantly more mature content

While there is the indication that this is for mature teens, there was no mention in "What Parents Need to Know" of a scenes in which teens are watchi... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPaigem13 January 17, 2020

Good for any mature person

This show was super good!! However, the book was better though I guess the book is usually better especially when it comes to John Green! This show does includ... Continue reading

What's the story?

LOOKING FOR ALASKA opens to 16-year-old Miles "Pudge" Halter (Charlie Plummer) embracing the unknown and heading off to boarding school out of state, much to the puzzlement of his parents. The quiet loner -- whose passion is recalling famous people's last words -- is searching for something intangible and as yet undefined in his life that he calls his "Great Perhaps," but whether or not he will find it at Culver Creek Academy is yet to be determined. What he does find is a new group of friends: his roommate, Chip, aka "The Colonel" (Denny Love); resourceful Takumi (Jay Lee); and the mysterious and enchanting Alaska (Kristine Froseth). As Miles settles into his new surroundings, he gets drawn into an existing war of wills between his friends and their snobbish classmates, the Weekend Warriors; faces off with the sharp-eyed dean they call "The Eagle" (Timothy Simons); and falls head over heels for Alaska and her charms.

Is it any good?

This series does well to not cut corners on developing the intoxicating characters John Green developed in his first award-winning novel. The eight-part format allows for each one to be introduced and revealed over the time that their complexity demands, and this is Looking for Alaska's real treasure. Obviously, Miles is at the forefront from the beginning, relatable in his determination to find life's inspiration and surprisingly solid in his willingness to stick to his values while still broadening his experiences among new company. Self-assured Alaska coaxes him out of his shell a little at a time, but even as they get closer and he gets to know her better, she's still mysterious and captivating to Miles and to viewers. And therein lies the show's hook.

While this central relationship evolves, others fill the background in similarly fascinating fashion. The Colonel is a thoroughly intriguing character, a hard-working "scholarship kid" as Alaska coins them (herself included), completely out of his element and at odds with those more privileged by money and, in his assessment, by race, which makes his choice of girlfriends in the sharp-tongued debutante Sara (Landry Bender) that much more perplexing. Even The Eagle and the resident baddies, the Weekend Warriors, have backstories that hint at further depth and leave viewers wanting more. Looking for Alaska is an authentic dissection of the teen experience as seen through the eyes of several heterogeneous characters expertly crafted by Green and portrayed by this show's talented cast.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how successful this series is in adapting such a popular book. Have your teens read the book? What parts stood out as especially well interpreted on-screen? Did any strike you as less well done? What challenges exist in bringing a beloved story to the small screen? 

  • What, if any, stance does this series take on teens engaging in adult behavior like drinking, smoking, and sex? Is this content presented in a way that teaches any lessons? Are there consequences attached to any of these behaviors? What motivates the characters to break the rules in these ways? How does this behavior square with your own teens' experiences with peers?

  • What does Miles hope to discover by leaving home? Is he well suited for the life change? How does he adapt and deal with challenges? What examples of determination and courage do you see in any of the characters?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love teen drama

Themes & Topics

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