School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-Sixteen-year-old Miles Halter's adolescence has been one long nonevent-no challenge, no girls, no mischief, and no real friends. Seeking what Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps," he leaves Florida for a boarding school in Birmingham, AL. His roommate, Chip, is a dirt-poor genius scholarship student with a Napoleon complex who lives to one-up the school's rich preppies. Chip's best friend is Alaska Young, with whom Miles and every other male in her orbit falls instantly in love. She is literate, articulate, and beautiful, and she exhibits a reckless combination of adventurous and self-destructive behavior. She and Chip teach Miles to drink, smoke, and plot elaborate pranks. Alaska's story unfolds in all-night bull sessions, and the depth of her unhappiness becomes obvious. Green's dialogue is crisp, especially between Miles and Chip. His descriptions and Miles's inner monologues can be philosophically dense, but are well within the comprehension of sensitive teen readers. The chapters of the novel are headed by a number of days "before" and "after" what readers surmise is Alaska's suicide. These placeholders sustain the mood of possibility and foreboding, and the story moves methodically to its ambiguous climax. The language and sexual situations are aptly and realistically drawn, but sophisticated in nature. Miles's narration is alive with sweet, self-deprecating humor, and his obvious struggle to tell the story truthfully adds to his believability. Like Phineas in John Knowles's A Separate Peace (S & S, 1960), Green draws Alaska so lovingly, in self-loathing darkness as well as energetic light, that readers mourn her loss along with her friends.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Book list Editor's note: When John Green published Looking for Alaska, which would go on to win the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award, he was working at Booklist as a production editor. It is Booklist policy that a book written or edited by a staff editor receive a brief descriptive announcement rather than a review. Green's first novel tells the story of 11th-grader Miles Halter, who leaves his boring life in Florida in hopes of boarding school adventures in Alabama. A collector of famous last words, Miles is after what the dying Francois Rabelais called ""the Great Perhaps."" At the boarding school, he is blessed with a fast-talking and quick-witted roommate, who just so happens to be friends with the enigmatic and beautiful Alaska Young. It's Alaska who introduces Miles to the purported last words of Simon Bolivar: ""Damn it. How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?"" It is a question that haunts Miles, particularly in the last third of the novel as he and his friends are forced to cope with loss.-- Copyright 2007 Booklist
Publishers Weekly This ambitious first novel introduces 16-year-old Miles Halter, whose hobby is memorizing famous people's last words. When he chucks his boring existence in Florida to begin this chronicle of his first year at an Alabama boarding school, he recalls the poet Rabelais on his deathbed who said, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." Miles's roommate, the "Colonel," has an interest in drinking and elaborate pranks-pursuits shared by his best friend, Alaska, a bookworm who is also "the hottest girl in all of human history." Alaska has a boyfriend at Vanderbilt, but Miles falls in love with her anyway. Other than her occasional hollow, feminist diatribes, Alaska is mostly male fantasy-a curvy babe who loves sex and can drink guys under the table. Readers may pick up on clues that she is also doomed. Green replaces conventional chapter headings with a foreboding countdown-"ninety-eight days before," "fifty days before"-and Alaska foreshadows her own death twice ("I may die young," she says, "but at least I'll die smart"). After Alaska drives drunk and plows into a police car, Miles and the Colonel puzzle over whether or not she killed herself. Theological questions from their religion class add some introspective gloss. But the novel's chief appeal lies in Miles's well-articulated lust and his initial excitement about being on his own for the first time. Readers will only hope that this is not the last word from this promising new author. Ages 14-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly This riveting first novel paints a frighteningly realistic picture of a world war breaking out in the 21st century. Told from the point of view of 15-year-old Manhattan native Daisy, the novel follows her arrival and her stay with cousins on a remote farm in England. Soon after Daisy settles into their farmhouse, her Aunt Penn becomes stranded in Oslo and terrorists invade and occupy England. Daisy's candid, intelligent narrative draws readers into her very private world, which appears almost utopian at first with no adult supervision (especially by contrast with her home life with her widowed father and his new wife). The heroine finds herself falling in love with cousin Edmond, and the author credibly creates a world in which social taboos are temporarily erased. When soldiers usurp the farm, they send the girls off separately from the boys, and Daisy becomes determined to keep herself and her youngest cousin, Piper, alive. Like the ripple effects of paranoia and panic in society, the changes within Daisy do not occur all at once, but they have dramatic effects. In the span of a few months, she goes from a self-centered, disgruntled teen to a courageous survivor motivated by love and compassion. How she comes to understand the effects the war has had on others provides the greatest evidence of her growth, as well as her motivation to get through to those who seem lost to war's consequences. Teens may feel that they have experienced a war themselves as they vicariously witness Daisy's worst nightmares. Like the heroine, readers will emerge from the rubble much shaken, a little wiser and with perhaps a greater sense of humanity. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Gr 8 Up-In this lyrical novel, 16-year-old Bobby narrates his journey into teenage fatherhood, struggling to balance school, parenting, and friends who simply do not comprehend his new role and his breathtaking love for his daughter. Winner of the 2004 SRT Coretta Scott King Author Award and the 2004 YALSA Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly In this companion novel, Johnson's fans learn just how Bobby, the single father for whom Marley baby-sits in Heaven, landed in that small town in Ohio. Beginning his story when his daughter, Feather, is just 11 days old, 16-year-old Bobby tells his story in chapters that alternate between the present and the bittersweet past that has brought him to the point of single parenthood. Each nuanced chapter feels like a poem in its economy and imagery; yet the characters-Bobby and the mother of his child, Nia, particularly, but also their parents and friends, and even newborn Feather-emerge fully formed. Bobby tells his parents about the baby ("Not moving and still quiet, my pops just starts to cry") and contrasts his father's reaction with that of Nia's father ("He looks straight ahead like he's watching a movie outside the loft windows"). The way he describes Nia and stands by her throughout the pregnancy conveys to readers what a loving and trustworthy father he promises to be. The only misstep is a chapter from Nia's point of view, which takes readers out of Bobby's capable hands. But as the past and present threads join in the final chapter, readers will only clamor for more about this memorable father-daughter duo-and an author who so skillfully relates the hope in the midst of pain. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Gr 8 Up-Brief, poetic, and absolutely riveting, this gem of a novel tells the story of a young father struggling to raise an infant. Bobby, 16, is a sensitive and intelligent narrator. His parents are supportive but refuse to take over the child-care duties, so he struggles to balance parenting, school, and friends who don't comprehend his new role. Alternate chapters go back to the story of Bobby's relationship with his girlfriend Nia and how parents and friends reacted to the news of her pregnancy. Bobby's parents are well-developed characters, Nia's upper-class family somewhat less so. Flashbacks lead to the revelation in the final chapters that Nia is in an irreversible coma caused by eclampsia. This twist, which explains why Bobby is raising Feather on his own against the advice of both families, seems melodramatic. So does a chapter in which Bobby snaps from the pressure and spends an entire day spray painting a picture on a brick wall, only to be arrested for vandalism. However, any flaws in the plot are overshadowed by the beautiful writing. Scenes in which Bobby expresses his love for his daughter are breathtaking. Teens who enjoyed Margaret Bechard's Hanging on to Max (Millbrook, 2002) will love this book, too, despite very different conclusions. The attractive cover photo of a young black man cradling an infant will attract readers.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Book list Gr. 6-12. Bobby, the teenage artist and single-parent dad inohnson's Coretta Scotting Award winner, Heaven (1998), tells his story here. At 16, he's scared to be raising his baby, Feather, but he's totally devoted to caring for her, even as she keeps him up all night, and he knows that his college plans are on hold. In short chapters alternating between now and then, he talks about the baby that now fills his life, and he remembers the pregnancy of his beloved girlfriend, Nia. Yes, the teens' parents were right. The couple should have used birth control; adoption could have meant freedom. But when Nia suffers irreversible postpartum brain damage, Bobby takes their newborn baby home. There's no romanticizing. The exhaustion is real, and Bobby gets in trouble with the police and nearly messes up everything. But from the first page, readers feel the physical reality of Bobby's new world: what it's like to hold Feather on his stomach, smell her skin, touch her clenched fists, feel her shiver, and kiss the top of her curly head.ohnson makes poetry with the simplest words in short, spare sentences that teens will read again and again. The great cover photo shows the strong African American teen holding his tiny baby in his arms. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist
School Library Journal Gr 10-Up This book received international acclaim after its 1999 publication in Europe. Older teens on this side of the Atlantic now have a chance to read the two complex and challenging narratives intertwined in this beautifully written novel. When 17-year-old Jacob travels solo from England as his grandmother's representative at a ceremony in the Netherlands commemorating the World War II Battle of Arnhem, he is transformed. Jacob is intrigued and excited by new ideas engendered by initially bewildering experiences: the strangely disturbing Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, new acquaintances who cross gender lines, and, most of all, the imminent assisted death of the elderly lady who was his grandfather's wartime nurse and has kept in contact with his family. This frail Dutchwoman, the second narrator, has her own startling tale to tell, recalling in detail her short but passionate relationship with another Jacob long ago, when the whole world seemed to be burning and when serious, irrevocable choices were made in haste. The protagonists in these coming-of-age stories face real-world decisions involving love, sexuality, and friendship, linking the teenagers across time and generations, and leading to a conclusion as convincing as it is absorbing and thought-provoking. -Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Sophisticated teenage readers yearning for a wider view of life may find themselves intoxicated by this Carnegie Medal$winning novel from Chambers (The Toll Bridge; Dance on My Grave), recent recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Author Award. Jam-packed with ideas and filled with passionate characters, the story is made up of two narratives, one set in the mid-1990s and the other in 1944. The inevitable but surprising ways in which these two tales connect form the novel!s backbone. Bookish, intense and self-conscious, Jacob Todd, 17, has left his English home to spend a few days in the Netherlands paying homage to the soldier grandfather he never knew, and visiting Geertrui, the Dutch woman who took care of his grandfather after he was wounded in battle. Shortly after meeting a beguiling stranger, a mugging leaves Jacob stranded in Amsterdam, forcing him into the initially awkward role of houseguest to Geertrui!s forceful and freethinking grandson, Daan. The second story, set in occupied Holland at the time of the battle to liberate Oosterbeck, and narrated by Geertrui, chronicles her long-ago relationship with Jacob!s grandfather. As each narrative unwinds, parallels and differences between the two eras emerge. Along with literature, art and love, topics dealt with here include euthanasia, adultery and bisexuality. These issues never become problems to be solved; rather, they are part of the story!s texture, neither more nor less significant than the precarious joy of investigating a new city and a foreign culture. No tidy endings here"the concluding scenes present Jacob with a complicated moral dilemma that remains unresolved. The implied challenges of the future make the final pages all the more satisfying: it!s clear that Jacob can not only cope with ambiguity but can employ it to enlarge himself on the voyage of self-discovery he has so auspiciously begun. Ages 14-up. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Book list Gr. 9^-12. Winner of the British Carnegie Medal, this very long novel is part thrilling WWII love story and part edgy, contemporary, coming-of-age fiction. In Holland in 1944, Dutch teenager Geertrui fell passionately in love with a wounded young British soldier, and she hid him from the enemy. That soldier's grandson, Jacob, a British teenager, is now in Amsterdam to visit the grave of the grandfather he never knew, and he falls in love with a beautiful young woman, even as he's attracted to an openly gay young man. The length of the story and the tortuous connections between past and present may turn off some readers, but the individual stories are riveting as past secrets are revealed and linked with what Jacob discovers about himself. Chambers weaves together past and present with enough plot, characters, and ideas for several YA books, but he does it with such mastery that all the pieces finally come together, with compelling discoveries about love, courage, family, and sexual identity. Common to all the stories is the heroism of ordinary people. Jacob finds no neat answers, just a sense of the rich and painful confusion of what it means to be human. --Hazel Rochman
Book list Gr. 6^-9. Almond, whose Skellig is the Booklist 1999 Top of the List winner for youth fiction, creates a heartbreakingly real world fused with magic realism in this story, set in an English coal-mining town. Thirteen-year-old Kit Watson and his family have returned to Stonygate to care for Kit's recently widowed grandfather. Almost immediately, Kit is enticed by John Askew, also of an old mining family, into a game called Death. Like the other members of Askew's gang, Kit is left alone in an abandoned mine until he sees ghosts of ancestors who died there as boys. Kit's friend Allie tells him that the other kids pretend to see these apparitions, but Kit really does see--and Askew knows it. The boys share a bond. Both are artistic: Kit is a writer; Askew is an artist. And both are sensitive enough to perceive what may not be there. But Kit comes from a strong, loving family, and Askew is the child of an ineffectual mother and a father who's a vicious drunk. Slowly, as Kit hears stories from his grandfather and writes his own, he realizes he has a mission--to save John Askew, body and soul. Almond has set an enormous task for himself. He juggles several plot elements--grandfather's fading mental capacities, Allie's acting aspirations, one of Kit's stories--along with the boys' struggle for redemption. But he succeeds beautifully, knitting dark and light together and suffusing the multilayered plot with an otherworldly glow. This is a long book, and a complex one, but Almond's language is a pleasure to read; and, as with Skellig, the story's ruminations about death and the healing power of love will strike children in unsuspected ways. --Ilene Cooper
Publishers Weekly Revisiting many of the themes from Skellig, Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism and allegory. He opens the novel with a triumphant scene, in which Kit Watson, the 13-year-old narrator, and his classmates, John Askew and Allie Keenan reemerge from "ancient darkness into a shining valley," as if to reassure readers throughout the course of the cryptic tale that the game of "Death," so central to the book, is indeed just a game. Nevertheless, he takes readers on a thrilling and spine-tingling ride. When Kit moves with his mother and father to the mining town of Stoneygate to keep company with his newly widowed grandfather, he feels drawn to John Askew who, like Kit, comes from a long line of coal miners. Askew presses Kit to take part in a game of "Death," for which the participants spin a knife to determine whose turn it is to "die." The chosen one then remains alone in the darkness of Askew's den, to join spirits with boys killed in a coal mine accident in 1821. Some regular players consider the game to be make-believe, but Kit senses something far more profound and dangerous, and the connection he forges with the ancient past also circuitously seals a deeper bond with Askew. Allie acts as a bridge between the two worlds, much as Mina was for Michael in Skellig. The ability that Askew, Kit and his grandpa possess to pass between two seductive worlds, here and beyond, in many ways expands on the landscape Almond created in Skellig. The intricacy and complexity of the book's darker themes make it a more challenging read than his previous novel for children, but the structure is as awe-inspiring as the ancient mining tunnels that run beneath Stoneygate. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Gr 6-9-The haunting otherworldliness that distinguished Skellig (Delacorte, 1999) also permeates this book. After the death of his grandmother, 13-year-old Kit Watson moves with his family to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town, to take care of his elderly grandfather. He forms a tentative friendship with John Askew, who is ridiculed because of his father's public drunkenness and inability to care for his family. In the wilderness area near their town, John organizes an after-school game called "Death," in which Kit and other friends lie alone in an abandoned mine waiting for visions of children who died there long ago. After school officials discover the game and expel John, he disappears. Kit, a budding writer, crafts a story about a prehistoric boy who becomes separated from his family. The story parallels the emotional incidents in John Askew's life and incorporates elements of stories Kit's grandfather has told him about the mines. John's mother pleads with the boy to bring her son home at the same time as the mother in the story Kit is writing appears to him, pleading with him to return her missing children. John resurfaces and, with Kit's help, rejoins his family. Grandpa dies, but Kit is committed to keeping his memory and his stories alive. Almond artfully brings these complicated, interwoven plots to a satisfying conclusion as he explores the power of friendship and family, the importance of memory, and the role of magic in our lives. This is a highly satisfying literary experience, showing readers that some of life's events are beyond explanation.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.