Reading "Looking for alaska" was a delightful experience. Usually, readings that are assigned from classes are a torture or should I say a labyrinth experience. John Green's novel welcomes the reader to explore the characters and whether it was Miles aka Pudge and his obsession with dying declaration or chip and his hatred for rich people or the peculiar and confused Alaska, the reader has no choice but to fall in love with them and the novel. Other than characterization, Green also excelled in creating a setting and a plot that is deeply rooted on the obsession of social status, with one main social norm (never ever rat). And all of these were the mouth-watering ingredient that kept me reading for hours and hours.
The novel begins with a six foot; skinny, geeky Miles, who decided on going to boarding school in hopes of "seek [ing] a Great Perhaps." Even in the beginning of "Looking for alaska," the importance of social status is apparent. Miles mother had decided to throw him a goodbye party even though Miles declined her offer. And only two other people attended that party. Thus, we learn early on that Miles was not that popular.
Perhaps Miles wanted a new beginning, a new life with a different social status and he thought that he might find that in Alabama. As soon as he get there, Chip explains to him that there are only two groups in Culver Creek and those are regular boarders (consists of poor kids or those who could not afford to go home every weekend) and Weekday Warriors (those rich, preppy kids). Now, our high school students can relate to this novel. They are well aware of the social status in schools. They know the difference between the popular student and the geeky student. They know where they are welcomed and when they are intruding.
However, this novel is filled with incidents were characters drink and smoke. Furthermore, the topic of sex comes up often. As we know this novel is geared around high school teenager. And if they are reading about Miles hanging around the wrong crew (drinking and smoking) who is to say that these teenagers wouldn't want to try that? Perhaps many teenagers have tried smoking, but this sort of novel would influence them further.
One thing that caught my attention in the novel was the fact that both the poor kids and the rich kids drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes and joints. But in our society, we have created a negative stereotype of joint smokers that usually fit a profile of a poor, black boy. Thus, the rich kids hardly ever get caught.
Now back to the novel, although miles hangs out with the wrong crowd, he learns a lesson in loyalty, the importance of family, and how he falls in love for the first time ever, he has friends and a circle that he belongs too.
As I was reading this novel and as I reflected on how I would address issues of drinking, and smoking cigarettes/drugs to my students, I recalled a discussion that took place during my student teaching placement class. I had the privilege of teaching a 9th grade English course to struggling students in an urban public school. We read a text that outlined the harmful consequences of selling drugs. A huge debate took place were more than 70% of my students said that it was okay to sell drugs as a means for survival. The remaining 30% of my students tried to convince the majority of the students that selling drugs leads to failure and incarceration or death. Now lets think about this for a moment, if a text like that showed the negative consequences, imagine what a text like "Looking for alaska" (which depicts drugs and smoking as a social-cool-thing) imagine how that can impact students.