aka YA Literature

Monday, April 30, 2007

Looking for Alaska

Book: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Narrator: Jeff Woodman
Book Rating: A-
Audio Rating: A-/B+

The Book:
I didn't really care for the what-I-learned-about-life-written-in-my-final-exam device that Green used to end the book. It is a bit over-used and rather expected. The moment Miles started describing his world religion class, I feared this is how the book would end. I also like to be shown what he learned rather than told, although I realize this was a coming-of-age novel with a first-person narrator, so some personal reflection on life lessons is to be expected. I did really love the final prank (wish the book would have ended with that). (No one from Culver Creek looked up the speaker's credentials on the Internet?)

I did think the book was pretty witty and I really liked when Miles threw up on Lara's jeans and he said they were the kind that girls wear to look really good without looking like they're trying to look really good. Very insightful! Like Vegan Virgin Valentine, this is a book I would have liked a lot as a teen because it is about smart, intellectual students who are interesting and interested in the humanities, especially English. This speaks to my teen self. Green did a really great job of portraying Pudge's ambivalence towards Alaska and the very realistic push-pull of her character. The dialogue was also extremely realistic.
The Colonel was my favorite character. When he said of the labyrinth, "I choose it," I got chills. That was a critical moment in the story for me. It reminded me of this article I read by Catharine MacKinnon about how women use that as a coping mechanism to deal with the inescapable oppression of patriarchy: "Faced with no alternatives, the strategy to acquire self-respect and pride is: I chose it." Alaska might appreciate MacKinnon's feminist interpretation of the labyrinth. Is choice possible? Is it only a coping mechanism? What if you choose this as your coping mechanism, then is it a choice?

The audio . . .

The Good:
Again, I'm more into having teen-sounding narrators for first-person teen books, but since it's all past-tense, Woodman's voice is appropriate for a young adult version of Miles. The narration matched the tone of the book and its actions, and Woodman had good distinct voices for all of the characters. The Colonel's voice was just outstanding! There was the helpful music at the end of each CD to cue me to change the CD before the end, too.

The Bad:
It didn't seem like Woodman had really decided how Takumi should sound and so his voice was inconsistent and a little off from the character. However, the absolute worst thing was Alaska's voice. I loathed it. It sounded like a character from A Tuna Christmas or something, certainly not anywhere near a hot teenage girl (even giving leniency and understanding for the fact that Woodman's a guy). It was just awful. And since she's the title character, it had a pretty significant effect on the listening experience for me.

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