In Looking For Alaska, John Green has created a page-turning coming-of-age novel which is every bit as exciting, dangerous, ignorant, and profound as the subject matter itself is: real life. Green scrapes the surface of the most timeless stories of wisdom and transcendence, then brings them to life anew in the story of this rag-tag group of friends, who come across every bit as precocious and as sensitive as we all were at sixteen (at least those of us willing to admit it). I especially enjoyed the way Green’s young characters admitted to being simultaneously naive to the adult world, yet somehow more inspired and truthful than that “mature” world. I find Looking For Alaska more of a modern day Peter Pan tale than a Holden Caulfield story, for which I am grateful to the author and confounded by other reviewers. It seems that Salinger’s troubled teen character is the only inspiration for “blurb” writers these days, but Green obviously and masterfully rises above the constraints of literary history and subjectification, creating something wholly original and timelessly true in the same breath. As an adult reader, I find it interesting that this novel falls into the “young adult” literature genre – as categorized by the corporate booksellers. It is every bit as moving and sophisticated as some of the 1950’s American literature on similar subjects of youth, growth, and expectation; after finishing the book, I was quite irritated at having been put off by the fact that it may have been a juvenile read, and quite honestly, I may have not appreciated the subject so much as a younger reader as I do now – which, I think, is the entire point of the coming-of-age novel. We learn so much from life, and hardly know it’s happening until it’s over. Really quite moving and tender, without pretense. Absolutely loved it.
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You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. Octavia E. Butler
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