Mr. Green writes about The Issues of Adolescence —life, death, and sexuality–with verve and humor. The characters in the novel are unique and yet representative of typical teenagers. The situations and jokes and the midnight conversations are funny, and sometimes even profound. I could picture The Colonel, and Pudge (Miles), and Takumi and Lara and Alaska, and I felt as I read that I got to know them as a group of rebellious teens and as individuals. In fact, I wanted to slap them up the side of the face for the stupid decisions they made, and applaud their search for meaning in an essentially absurd universe.
However, and it’s a big however, I was more than uncomfortable with the language and the graphic descriptions of adolescent sexual explorations that pervaded the novel. I know that some teenagers (not all) try out sex in all its manifestations, and I know that some teens (not all) use language that would make a sailor blush. But I don’t really want to read about it. And I don’t feel very good about my teenagers reading about it.
So, I’d say that Looking for Alaska is a well-written, insightful, funny,
blasphemous profane, and sexually explicit look at adolescence on the wild side. The actions and reactions of the characters are believable and sometimes deplorable. Oh, and Mr. Green won the Prinz Award for YA literature for this debut novel in 2006. Enter at your own risk.
I’m curious. Are there any subjects or is there any kind of language that is out of bounds anymore for a young adult novel? I’m asking because I really don’t know. Would it be acceptable for me to describe, in detail, child sexual abuse or necrophilia in my young adult novel if I were an author of YA fiction? Not that Looking for Alaska deals with those particular subjects, because it doesn’t, but I’m asking out of curiosity because I really don’t know. Are there any uncrossable lines anymore? Are there ten, seven, or even five words, you can’t use in YA fiction?
And what do you think the “lines” should be, if any? Should the standards be different from those in adult fiction? (Not that I can tell that there are any in adult fiction.)