It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

This week I read “Looking for Alaska” by John Green.  This was a type of book that I had never read before.  It was a needed reading experience for me regardless of whether I enjoyed the book or not.  I ended up giving it three out of five stars on my Goodreads account, and the reason I didn’t give it more was because of my inability to relate to the work.  I never could really get into the book or relate to the characters.  But I did love the philosophical undertone of “The Great Perhaps.” Even though I could not relate, this class has continued to teach me that readers need to read works they are not comfortable with.  I’m glad I went outside of my normal taste for this one.

Everybody and their dog has probably read this book so I’m not going to bore you with a review.  Instead I will bore you with my thoughts on the book, and the good qualities that I thought it delivered.  I enjoyed most of the characters, except for the main character.  I found Miles Halter to quite uninteresting compared to The Colonel, Alaska, and their group of friends.  Although I’m sure Green wanted to paint the main character as normal in order to highlight the eccentric personalities of the secondary characters.  If that was what he was going for, it worked.  The warrior poet, The Colonel, carried a deep seated vulnerability, and was hilarious.  Alaska carried her enigmatic past with a cynical view of the future.  The setting was a boarding school, which helped to highlight the character flaws even more.  By having the backdrop be something that has an ethos of perfection and structure (the boarding school) it helped to show the real life problems teenagers endure, even inside the perception of a perfect school.  So, to conclude this paragraph I enjoyed the theme of isolation that was delivered, and how that helped to highlight character growth.

The cigarette smoking in this book was almost unbearable.  The book was 220 pages long and I bet 25 of those pages was a narrative on the art of smoking.  I just didn’t understand why there was so much of it, maybe someone can explain it to me.  There were at least a dozen trips to the “Smoking Hole” and another dozen trips to the shower to smoke.  Each one of those scenes, besides maybe two or three, was not central to the story line.  But once again, maybe this was the goal of the author.  Plus I understand that not all the narration has to be central to the story line.  Because of this I got a Hemingway feel out of this book.  Hemingway was a master at repeating normal, daily events that build into a fever pitch of sadness by the end.  This book made me walk away feeling that way.  I would like to read another book to see if John Green’s voice stays consistent with this book.  This book did have me laughing in places, but the sadness never hit me too hard for some reason.

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Author: Zane Hesting

I am an education student at Chadron State College in Nebraska. My interests include fly fishing, reading books, watching movies, hanging out with family, and exploring.

11 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”

  1. I think that this was a great novel, but not totally relateable. The characters were fun to watch, but no one I could particularly connect with. I really enjoyed your observations on isolation and character growth. I suppose I never really looked at it that way, but now I see your point. “The Great Perhaps” is something I thought would make a great learning experience, especially for teens. I read We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, it had a similar tone. It reminds me of this same “Great Perhaps” idea.

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    1. Yes, I had a hard time relating to the characters (but they were fun to watch like you said). I too agree that authors mentioning something like a “Great Perhaps” can facilitate great questions on everybody’s life journey. I’m a sucker for books that can paint a picture around a philosophical ideal. Most books do it subtly, but this one was out in the open about it, and that I enjoyed.

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  2. Your thoughts on the smoking portions left me chuckling. I like your connection to Hemingway; I hadn’t considered that previously.

    I also think that you make a great point about reading outside of our comfort zones from time to time. I know how important it is because there are some students that I could recommend hundreds of titles to, and there are others that I couldn’t come up with even one. Because of that, I have been trying to push myself. It isn’t easy though and I don’t like it, so I admire your willingness to do it. Your future students will benefit from it.

    Happy reading!

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    1. The cigarettes were out of control, just flying off the page. I’ll admit I am a comfort zone reader, but this class is unique in that we can read out of our comfort zone while still being able to choose the book.

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  3. I’ve never read this book in particular, but I’m finding it sounds kind of interesting in the sense that it wasn’t what you thought it would be or that it didn’t meet your expectations. John Green has been a pretty great author in my experience. If you’re looking for a tear jerker, The Fault in Our Stars had me sobbing away on the airplane to Texas when I first read it. There’s a suggestion. Thanks for bringing this book into the light a little. I may have to investigate.

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    1. I’ve heard “The Fault in Our Stars” is good and it is on the list for the future. This book exceeds expectations in some areas and is just awkward in some areas. Kind of like being a teen I guess.

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  4. I thought the cigarette smoking was overdone as well, especially for a modern book. I would’ve believed it more if it was pot, to be honest; hardly anyone I know smokes cigarettes any more, as it’s an outdated and notoriously cancerous habit! I think the reason Pudge seems “boring” is because he’s competing with highly eccentric characters, like you said; however, I did find Alaska’s death tragic. There’s something about an accident (or possible suicide) where you might think, “Did they regret it at the end? Did it hurt?” that really gets me.

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    1. Yes her death was certainly tragic and you could feel the pain radiating from her friends. The book has a great line that illustrates her absence when Pudge says something like “every time they began to be happy it drove them deeper into a hole because the happiness all made them think of her.” I loved this books philosophical undertones. You’re right about the pot! I was waiting for it at every turn and it just never showed up.

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  5. I’m so happy you read this and even happier that you gave us an honest review of what you thought about it. It really is true then, that we don’t all connect with the same novels we read. I really liked “Looking for Alaska”. For whatever reason, it spoke to me. Not necessarily the smoking portions, but it did. I like what you have to say about the characters here, and I agree to some degree. They all seemed interesting to me in their own way. Young adults are all different and if we look at it in this manner, maybe we can understand why he structured the novel to support his readers. Thanks for the review!

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    1. It was great in places (The Colonel’s Home, Camping Trip, Ending Prank), but in between I was just ready for these kids to be out of that school, they seemed so trapped. But the trapping of the characters was a good way to create writing space for the author. Like you said, young adults definitely are all different and the distinctions are highlighted well in the genres we are reading, sharp contrasts.

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