“Cornbread!” he screamed. “CHICKEN!” the crowd responded. “Rice!” “Peas!” And then, all together: “WE GOT HIGHER SATs.”
“Hip Hip Hip Hooray!” the Colonel cried.
“YOU’LL BE WORKIN’ FOR US SOMEDAY!” (Looking for Alaska by John Green)
This book is a Robin Hood of YA literature – it robs coolness from the rich, the good-looking, and the dim-witted, and gives it all to the overlooked smart, dorky, and somewhat unattractive members of teenager-hood. John Green is another author that truly respects the intellects of adolescents – Looking for Alaska is riddled with unexplained allusions, quick jokes, and bits of fascinating lectures on religion. Yet he also dares to go into deep into the territory of teenage emotions; he doesn’t stop short of sex, drugs, or deep depression as some other YA books do, but boldly explores them all.
Although I suspect that the deep emotions expressed in this book are what have captured it the love of adolescents everywhere, I found its almost ridged structure to be more noteworthy. One doesn’t expect to find a highly structured format in a YA book filled with smoking, drinking and sex – that is reserved for perfectly symmetrical classic works, like Pride and Prejudice. Yet Looking for Alaska’s chapters meticulously measure the time before and after the accident, the novel starts on the first day of the semester and ends on the last, and excerpts from a class on religion are systematically interwoven in order to give the ideas presented in the book a firm foundation. The strict format almost acts as a barrier between the book and the story; a barrier that might protect the reader from intense emotions presented in the book and, perhaps, enable the reader to analyze their own sometimes overpowering emotions.
Keep in mind – if YA literature isn’t your cup of tea, feel free to fill out the reader’s advisory survey here, and I’ll provide a hand-crafted book recommendation, fit to your current mood and reading needs.