I'm a nerdy girl with too much time on her hands, and too many books on her to-read pile.
So lately I’ve been filling word documents and old notebooks with lists. Ideas for mixtapes (from happy and sad to the soundtrack for a zombie apocalypse, songs for fictional characters, and drinking playlists), ideas for stories, cool pancake recipes, interesting quotes, lyrics, pet names, places to visit when I win the lottery… you name it. Being true to my latest obsession, I now present you with a list of reasons why I loved “Looking for Alaska”:
- As Pudge, I’m also on the threshold of beginning my own journey in the hopes of finding a Great Perhaps away from home, friends, country and culture. There are days when I wake up scared to death about the prospect of moving so far away from everything I know, and books like this one keep reminding me that the journey is worth the risks.
- I also read “The General in his Labyrinth” at Alaska’s age and felt haunted by it, although for different reasons. Simon Bolivar freed my country from Spain’s oppression only to die here, alone and friendless, and swallowed by a labyrinth of his own making. The book and the discussions it inspires in “Looking for Alaska” were a nice reminder of my teenage days, building my own library and hoping that I could find answers to everything inside books.
- Ever since watching “vlogbrothers” on youtube (nerdfighters!!!!) I’ve developed a little crush on John Green (How could I not? The guy’s adorable!!) and I was a little worried that his books would destroy that admiration. I mean, what if he ended up being another Picoult? Or a Nicholas Sparks for teens? Lucky for me, John Green is as cool on paper as he is on the screen and I’m now able to say that my crush remains unscathed.
- It allowed me to get over the assumption that YA literature was below me. (don't blame me, I've seen so many incredible stupid and condescending stuff marketed for young adults that at one point I thought that was the heart of the entire label)
- When my mom asked me the other day what this book was about. I ended up answering along the lines of “well, you see, it’s the story about a teenager’s experience at a boarding school, but not really. I mean, deep inside the book talks about loss and first encounters, taking risks, finding family away from home, and discovering wonderful people through books that talk about them. It’s about meeting friends, knowing all along that some of them will disappear from your life one way or another, and loving them anyway.” How could I not love something like this??????
- It’s refreshing to read a book that doesn’t exploit my feelings for the sake of sales. If there’s one thing I hate about books like “The Lovely Bones” or “My sister’s keeper”, is the nagging suspicion that their authors consciously employ scenes of abuse and death in order to force emotions, like pretty much any Mexican, Venezuelan and Colombian soap opera in existence. The feelings in “Looking for Alaska” are there, don’t get me wrong, but they are incorporated for a reason, an important one, and are also given an appropriate amount of depth and respect. So ten points for that.
There are more reasons, but they are way too personal and incoherent to post so I’ll leave it at that. “Looking for Alaska” is a great book, both in terms of my growing love for John Green as an author and young adult books which, as I said before, can apparently be inspiring and moving even for someone who reached puberty more than a decade ago. Even better, I’m now in the process of becoming the cool cousin that recommends awesome books to her younger family members!!
If you have read good YA books (I’m not a huge fan of paranormal romance, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice if it’s a really good book) please let me know. I’m starting a special section on my TBR pile dedicated to these books and I don’t really know where to begin.
“It was a pleasure to burn”.
What would you do if reading and keeping books were suddenly considered terrible crimes? Would you use what little time you had left before they were destroyed to memorizing your favorite lines? Would you hide them? Would you surrender willingly, and turn to the next form of entertainment without remorse?
A while ago I had the opportunity to think about these questions while trying to save what I could of my grandfather’s library. He was a great man, fond of reading, and during his life he had managed to build a collection of books that went from Buddhism to the holocaust, with comics and all sorts of genres in between. After his death my grandmother decided to turn to Christianity for answers, and was convinced that books that didn’t explicitly worshiped god were tools of the devil and needed to be destroyed. So one day, with the help of a couple of relatives, she lit a bonfire and threw away most of what my grandfather treasured and loved, along with everything in her house that was considered “evil”. That included my uncle’s collection of Harry Potter books, works of fiction that my mother was saving for me to read one day, and even novels of Gabriel García Márquez, once admired and now detested for his profanity.
I felt comforted when I came home and saw my own little library, each book a pleasant memory, and thanked the heavens for the fact that my grandma’s fire could never reach them. But what if it could? That’s what scares me about “Fahrenheit 451”: The notion that the objects I love the most in the entire world could suddenly disappear because others don’t like them. Because they could make me unhappy, and nobody wants to feel sad, right? It’s so much easier to sit in front of a screen that tells you what to think, how to feel, what to do and buy…
That being said, I don’t entirely agree with the notion that all television is inherently bad. Most of it? Sure, especially when shows like “Jersey Shore” are at the top of the charts, right along with a deliberate attempt to misinform the public and manipulate news. But there is also good stuff, and an attempt to spread knowledge even for those who can’t read. I’ve seen documentaries that have expanded my views on a variety of subjects, from Alzheimer’s to euthanasia, and plenty enjoyable shows that heavily critic our society and our paradigms. I would hate to see them disappear, just as much as I hated to see the empty spaces in a once full library shelf.
That’s why I believe that “Fahrenheit 451” is important: You can agree or disagree, but it still makes you think, and that’s the best kind of book to keep around. It also helped to see characters I could relate to and that I found interesting (like Clarisse and Faber). Beatty was terrifying, more so because he used quotes from books to promote the destruction of any worthy piece of written word, and Montag was a fantastic protagonist. This is a great book, and it should be read by everyone.
(Oh! I also strongly disagree with comics being considered "safe": “Maus”, for example, is one of the most powerful books I’ve read about the holocaust, along with other graphic novels that address topics in a way that most books would fail to do. So if you're going to destroy anything that promotes individual thought, comics should definitely go too.)