Author sends students on ‘search’ for Alaska

Mae Mastin, Copy Editor

John Green sent Joliet Township High School students on a search for Alaska this summer, but they didn’t find the 49th state; sophomore, junior and senior students read “Looking for Alaska,” one of two summer reading titles for 2015. “Looking for Alaska,” Green’s first novel, earned him the Michael L. Printz Award in 2006.

The YA book, set in 2005 (the year of its publication), is split into the “Before” and the “After,” and is told from the perspective of Miles Halter, who memorizes the last words of famous people. Miles leaves his home in Florida for Culver Creek, a boarding school in Alabama, seeking excitement in a “Great Perhaps.”

There, he meets his roommate, Chip Martin, who is known as “the Colonel” by his friends. The Colonel gives Miles the nickname “Pudge” and introduces him to Alaska Young, who is enthralling, but also damaged and full of secrets. She challenges him to find the meaning and the answer to the question, “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” Pudge becomes friends with the Colonel and Alaska, and spends 136 days with them, until “After,” when Pudge deals with a tragedy that leads him on a guilty, grief-stricken search for answers and the way out of his own labyrinth.

“Looking for Alaska” shows the genuine, eloquent style that Green weaves into each of his stories, and at the same time displays honesty and humor, even when dealing with difficult topics.

Students said that one of the best things about the book came from the fact that it was engaging to them personally.

“I loved the book,” said Joliet West sophomore Emma Regal. “I really liked that … it was relatable, but it also had adventure.”

Sophomore Izzy Bohanek agreed,

“The thing that I enjoyed about the book was that … all the characters had their own personalities,” she said. “If you couldn’t relate to the main characters, you could relate to the other ones.”

According to a Joliet Township High School press release, the Summer Reading book was selected by students. The press release stated, “Over 1000 students voted online before Spring Break to choose their Summer Reading Selection and Looking for Alaska received over a third of those student votes. This voting was preceded by an extensive selection process in which book suggestions and feedback were solicited from the JTHS community.”

Sophomore Anna Eklund liked the book but thought it might present issues in the classroom.

“I thought the setting and the background of [the characters] were really interesting,” she said. “I feel like it’s a harder book to teach, and … as a student, I can’t really find … what they’re trying to teach me or what I’m supposed to learn.”

Students are given English assignments regarding the summer reading books in the first weeks of school.

“The primary goal of the Summer Reading Program is for students to have a pleasurable and positive summer reading experience,” said English curriculum director Brian Conant in a letter about summer reading. “When students read for pleasure during the summer, it helps to maintain reading and thinking skills developed during the school year.”

Come back next week to read about Joliet West’s other summer reading option and freshman selection, “Of Beetles and Angels” by Mawi Asgedom!

Article originally published on the Insider edition…