Tag Archives: Social Issues

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
By John Green
(Speak, Paperback, 9780142402511, 2006, 256pp.)

The Short of It:

Highly praised, yet failed to deliver in the end.

The Rest of It:

*No Spoilers*

I recently reviewed Green’s latest book, and loved it, so when I saw this one at the library, I immediately snatched it up.

Miles moves from Florida to Alabama to attend Culver Creek Preparatory School. There, he meets his roommate “The Colonel” also known as Chip Martin. Miles wasn’t all that popular at his previous school, in fact…no one really knew he existed so when Chip shows an interest in him, he eases into the friendship knowing that it could disintegrate at any moment. After their brief introduction and receiving the nickname of Pudge (even though Miles is skinny as a rail), Miles is introduced to Alaska Young.

Alaska is witty and beautiful and different from the girls back home but she is also taken. Her college boyfriend is mentioned numerous times but is never seen. This mysterious air is what attracts Miles to her, but it’s also what frustrates him most. Especially when she goes missing and he and Chip are left to figure out what happened.

The story is broken up into two parts, before and after with before being the events leading up to her disappearance, and after, the events that followed it. As a reader, I knew right away that something was going to happen, but I had no idea what. With each chapter breaking it down even further (2 months before, 28 days after, etc), which worked to a degree as I certainly felt the tension build, the end result was not what I had hoped for. The ending left a lot of questions unanswered and to be honest with you, this pissed me off. The structure begs for resolution. You cannot lead a reader down the before/after path and not give them something in return!

My reaction to the ending, affected my overall enjoyment of the book itself. Putting the ending aside, I will say that I enjoyed the dialogue between the characters and the development of Miles over time. He is a likable character and his interactions with the other characters were often entertaining if not, enjoyable. Scores of readers have praised the book for its emotional punch so perhaps its magic was lost on me. After all, I am not a young teen by any stretch of the imagination and that is what this book is geared towards even with its numerous mentions of alcohol and sex.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why (audio)

Thirteen Reasons Why (Audio)

Thirteen Reasons Why (audio)
By Jay Asher
Read by: Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone
(Listening Library (Audio), Compact Disc, October 2007, 9780739356500)

The Short of It:

An absolutely riveting, cannot-turn-off story about a young girl explaining why she decided to take her life.

The Rest Of It:

Clay Jensen comes home from school and finds a package waiting for him. Inside the box, is a set of cassette tapes made by one of his classmates and crushes…Hannah Baker. The only problem is that Hannah killed herself just two weeks prior. These tapes are her thirteen reasons why.

This is a wonderful book. I originally chose it for The Boy but when he told me how much he was enjoying it, I made a mental note to read it myself. Luckily for me, the audio was available so I snatched it up.

Hannah’s story is just heartbreaking. Here is a girl, who is pretty, popular and living in a supportive home, yet she falls between the cracks and slowly begins to lose herself. She is not bullied in a traditional sense, but she is the subject of rumors and those rumors lead to abuse of a different kind. On her way to invisibility, she reaches out for help (numerous times) but her cries for help fall on deaf ears.

The cassette tapes that she’s left behind are to be shared with the thirteen people responsible for her collapse. The story alternates between Hannah’s voice, and Clay’s, who doesn’t understand why he is included in this group, until he listens to his section of the tape. This method of sharing her story often brought tears to my eyes, because as a reader, you know there is no daring rescue at the end. You  know the outcome and all you can do is sit there, shaking your head, wondering how many young kids are out there today, thinking the same thing.

The readers for this novel are amazing. Debra Wiseman plays Hannah perfectly. The pain, the angst and the frustration all come through beautifully in her reading. Johnstone also does an excellent job portraying Clay. He has this wide-eyed, sensibility that makes you like him even more. Innocent, but not stupid. Very touching at times.

On that note, I want to share this video with you. It has nothing to do with this book, but I came across it while reading the book and it brought me to tears. My son was a student ambassador for his middle school, and when he was, I always reminded him that a kind word, said to a troubled kid, could be the difference between life and death. Plus, it includes the awesome singing group, Ahmir. I adore them. Please watch it. Such an important message.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.