Too bad I chose one that made me cry. Yes. I, of the iron will and the stone stomach, I who am devoid of sympathy, I who roll my eyes in the face of Nicholas Sparks and his tear-jerking ways. I shed a tear over this book. Or two.
In my defense, I did not boo-hoo. It was just a very quiet leaky-eye thing. I could have blamed it all on a wayward eyelash or a misplaced elbow (not my own, of course, because that's not possible. Try it. You'll see). Instead, a much more logical explanation is the fact that I cried for the time in my life that was awfully similar (though not so that anyone else would recognize it) to the cause of sadness in the book.
But I don't want to talk about my secret sorrow. I want to talk about banned books. It seems that next week is "Banned Books Week," which has come accompanied by a timely stink. Looking for Alaska is one of those books that has been frequently challenged, so far as to be called pornography. (Um, whaaa?) Hard-core, even! I am not a seasoned reader of "hard-core porn," but I hardly think a few scenes of teenagers making out constitutes any kind of porn at all.
However, I do have an opinion on book banning and I'm about to share it with you, like it or not. I must admit I am slightly ambivalent on the matter. On one hand, I am fundamentally opposed to the idea of banning books. The whole thing just seems wrong, up there with imprisoning journalists for speaking out against the government. On the other hand, there are many cases where age appropriateness should be taken into consideration when choosing reading material.
Looking for Alaska deals with a lot of topics that I don't want my kids reading about yet. Of course, my oldest is ten. He is completely unconcerned with this sort of book and I hope he stays that way for at least five more minutes. Once he hits high school, however, I'm pretty sure my resistance will fade. After all, it's kind of naive to think that high school students would be surprised by anything found in this book. I would not prevent my children from reading Looking for Alaska when the time was right, though I would want a chance to reiterate my opinions on smoking, drugs, drinking, and teen sex. Opinions which, if I've done my job right, my kids will already be plenty familiar with.
Because that's what it all comes down to: personal responsibility. It is each parent's job to be aware and informed, to decide whether they feel a book is appropriate for their own child, and when. It is not any other person's job to conclude that my child shouldn't read a particular book. Yes, I do ascribe to the somewhat old-fashioned notion that it is my job to give my children some guidance, rather than allowing them to open Pandora's box and flood themselves with all the evil in the world while they're still practically babies. But once they are ready for more adult themes, I'm not going to shelter them from books like these while I still have the chance to help them form their worldview.
Oops. I don't usually do this. I mean, I have opinions, but I prefer not to bring up touchy subjects on my blog. I like this to be my happy fun place. But these were the thoughts brought on by this book, and beyond expressing them, all I would have to say is that this book is edgy, well-written and a page turner. I can imagine that high school students must love it, just like the kids at the children's library loved Phoebe's singing because she told the truth.
And a sort of post script on the author: over the past few months I've gotten the idea that John Green can do no wrong. In the style of a true literary amnesiac, I can not remember which bloggers gave me that idea, although a quick google blogsearch shows me that two blogs I read (Raych and Nymeth) have discussed the author in general and this book in particular, so maybe it's their fault. One of these days I will also be reading Paper Towns, since I've already bought a copy based on the Can Do No Wrong theory.