25 November 2008

I've always wanted to move to Alaska...

but Sarah Palin totally ruined that.

Green, John. (2005) Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton Books. 256 pages.

Fortunately for us Sarah Palin has absolutely nothing to do with this fantastically written book by John Green.

More times than I'd care to admit I'm reasonably unimpressed with the quality of the writing in YA books. The stories are great and the characters reasonably well developed but it just falls short somehow. This is absolutely NOT the case with Green's Waiting for Alaska.

I'll admit that even with all the hubabbaloo on yalsa-bk and on the interwebs about this book I managed to come at it without knowing anything about the plot, not even that Alaska was a person and not a place (well it is a place in real life but, you know what I mean). So I was very pleasantly surprised when I read this.

Green's character Miles Halter (a.k.a. Pudge) is just snarky and thoughtful enough to make him one of the most "real" teen characters in a book I've read in a while. On his quest for "the Great Perhaps", Miles knows that things just aren't going the way they should living in Florida with his parents and his "school friends". The private boarding school in Alabama, where his Dad went to high school, offers the possibility of a new start and a different path. At the start of his junior year Miles meets his roommate Chip (a.k.a. "the Colonel") and the moody but absolutely gorgeous Alaska Young. Along with a few other friends, Chip and Alaska teach Miles what it means to have real friends, along with drinking, smoking, and sex that is. It's not until Alaska's sudden death in a car crash that her moodiness is truly identified as deep depression. Miles and Chip are left to try to pick up the pieces and reconcile with what they know really happened that night.

Am I detecting a pattern in some of the books I've chosen to read lately? Wallflower and now this? I think Mr. Salinger might have stumbled on to something here, no? Now, along with the "Hero" and the "Damsel in Distress", can we say that there is a literary archetype known as the "Holden Caufield"? I kind of like that idea, whether it's an original one or not.

I'd structure my booktalk much the same way as with Wallflower, though leaving out the first year of high school stuff obviously. More than that though I'd highlight the whole "what they know really happened that night" aspect of the plot maybe. That does give away the ending. I would also add it to my list of books for kids to read and then compare with Catcher.

1 comment:

  1. You ask:

    "Now, along with the "Hero" and the "Damsel in Distress", can we say that there is a literary archetype known as the "Holden Caufield"?"

    Definitely. Many folks consider The Catcher in the Rye to be the first real young adult novel. I am not one of these people; however, I do think that Salinger's voice and narrative P.O.V. has influenced a LOT of YA authors.

    Amy P.