John Green’s Looking for Alaska Under Attack in Wisconsin

July 11, 2014
By

alaskaA parent in Waukesha, Wisconsin, has decided that John Green’s Looking for Alaska is not a book her high school daughter should read. She has also decided it isn’t fit for any student in the district, so she filed a complaint against the acclaimed and popular novel.

ABC affiliate WISN 12 News reported on the attempt to ban Looking for Alaska. While the reporting isn’t as skewed as we’ve seen in the past, it is definitely one-sided. Parent Ellen Cox wants the book banned for sexual content and described Looking for Alaska as having “A lot of sexual descriptions in it — page after page. It was filled.” Reporter Christina Palladino spoke with Cox about why she wanted Looking for Alaska banned, but like many journalists, Palladino failed to examine the implications of the book ban and she didn’t speak to anyone opposed to the removal of the book.

The Waukesha school district appears to be following a formal review process in considering Cox’s complaint. School Superindent Todd Gray responded to WISN 12 News request for comment with the following:

“Banning of books is always a considerable matter, however I have confidence our consideration committee will complete a comprehensive review and make an appropriate recommendation.”

Looking for Alaska is a coming-of-age story that follows the adventures of Miles Halter, a quirky teenage boy who leaves home for boarding school and meets Alaska Young, a unpredictable, self-destructive, and fascinating girl to whom he is attracted. The novel has received several accolades, including ALA’s Michael L. Printz award, and is a New York Times Bestseller. Since publication, it has become a staple on school reading lists around the country and has been widely praised as a book that engages reluctant readers.

John Green’s work is exceedingly popular with teen and adult readers. One of his books, The Fault in Our Stars, was recently released as a major motion picture, and Looking for Alaska is also in development for a move to the big screen. In Waukesha, his books are so popular that Palladino could not find a copy of Looking for Alaska at local libraries — all of them were checked out.

This is the second challenge that has been brought against a John Green novel in almost as many weeks. In late June, Paper Towns was summarily removed from a Florida reading list after a parent complained about sexual content in the book. CBLDF joined a NCAC-led coalition in demanding the restoration of the title to school reading lists, but school superindendent Kurt Browning — who removed the book without following the district’s own review process — continues to defend his actions as being justified.

The fate of Looking for Alaska will be determined in the next couple of weeks. We’ll keep you posted as updates become available.

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