Looking for Alaska. By John Green. (2005). New York: Dutton Books.ISBN-10: 014241221X.

Plot Summary

Loner Miles Halter, (later known as Pudge,) leaves his public high school to seek “The Great Perhaps,” which may or may not include shenanigans, mischief, and much learning. He is a smart boy, who has a fascination with last words. He culls these from the biographies of famous persons. At Culver Creek Boarding School, Pudge meets The Colonel and Alaska, two friends who change his life and the way he looks at things, forever.

Critical Evaluation

Looking for Alaska deals with death, finding your place, history, and being present in time and place. The language is realistic and Pudge’s voice is honest and relatable. Life is portrayed through Pudge’s eyes as an exhilarating, invigorating experience. The novel is populated with anti-stereotypical characters such as the sex loving girl, Alaska,  the Asian rap-master Takumi, the poor yet loving-mothered Colonel, and a headmaster who punishes the young prangsters, but cares deeply for them.

Pudge’s questioning mind and escapades will have teens thinking about the meaning of life and relationships, and while there is a message (the characters experience much sadness,) the story is told in such a realistic way that readers will be sure to relate.

Reader’s Annotation

Pudge seeks his “Great Perhaps,” which he assumes is pranks and mischief, as well as real friends, at his new boarding school. But what he comes to find, is that the Great Perhaps is much more unpredictable. By opening himself up to the Great Perhaps, he also opens himself up to real love and disappointment.

About the Author

John Green is the New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns. He is also the coauthor, with David Levithan, of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He was 2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award, a 2009 Edgar Award winner, and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Green’s books have been published in more than a dozen languages.

Green’s book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review and Booklist, a wonderful book review journal where he worked as a publishing assistant and production editor while writing Looking for Alaska. Green grew up in Orlando, Florida before attending Indian Springs School and then Kenyon College.

Retrieved on September 24th, 2010 from http://johngreenbooks.com/.


-Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties



-Should be included in every school counselor’s office

Booktalking Ideas

-Last words, boarding school, pranks, deep friendships, and belonging

Reading Level/Interest Age


Challenge Issues

The book depicts students smoking, drinking, and engaging in sexual exploration, though these are definitely not central to the book’s themes of philosophy, death, and friendship.

The book clearly demonstrates that these behaviors do have dire consequences. By depicting things realistically, teens may think twice about the reality of behaviors they are currently engaging in or that their friends are engaging in. So while the book does not provide a rosy view of perfectly behaved students, it does provide them a framework from which to understand consequences and real life experiences such as death, and relationships, with honesty.

This title was the winner of an Edgar Award in 2009, and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Why did you include this book?

John Green won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2006 for Looking for Alaska. According to Horn Book Magazine, it “got high marks for both literary quality and teen appeal (Hunt, 2009, p.399)”.

Hunt, J. (2009). Borderlands: A Printz retrospective. The Horn Book Magazine 85(4) , pp.395-403. Retrieved on September 24th, 2010 from Academic Search Premier Database at Persistent URL: http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=42427848&site=ehost-live .


About thesuperlibrarian

High School Librarian and obsessive reader! On a mission to read as many SUPER YA books as possible!
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