Looking for Alaska and Censorship

I thought I’d start out by saying what preconceived notions I started the book with. Firstly, I have loved every John Green book I have ever read. Secondly, having watched the lecture I know that Looking for Alaska has been one of the most banned books for years. Basically I knew I was going to love this book before I opened it. And I was right, because I connected with it in a ton of ways.

My first year of high school I attended Mansfield HS so that my brother could finish out his high school career there. My family and I came to call Mansfield a vortex, and not in a good way. It sucked so many teenagers in and lots died because of it. The high school had a total of about 300 students. I lost friends. Will, Paige, Cheyenne, Temper, Pruitt, Hannah. Four of them died in car accidents, one died from a drug overdose, and another from cancer. At the next high school I attended we lost at least three students.

Parents like to believe that being a teenager is a bright happy-go-lucky time in life, but all too often that isn’t the case. Most of us aren’t like Alaska, but we know someone like her and a lot of us have lost someone like her. With books like this it reinforces the idea that drinking and driving has horrible consequences and that when someone is in pain emotionally it can lead to horrible things. I still need books like this to help me understand emotional difficulties and it would’ve helped if more books like this were available to me when I was growing up. What adults need to understand and remember is that teenagers are just people who are going through the most horrible things in life for the first time.

Teens are going to have sex that doesn’t mean that they can’t be safe about it. My mom was always more understanding than my dad. My parents were guilty of the usual double standard, boys can have sex and girls can’t . However my mom’s ability to talk to me about important things meant that I knew long before I ever had sex that I needed to be careful not only about STD’s and pregnancy but also about who I was becoming emotionally involved with. Most people who try to censor books are under the misguided belief that if you don’t talk about something horrible it can’t or didn’t happen, but in reality it’s going to happen anyway and that is why it must be discussed. It’s books like this that allow students to begin that dialogue with themselves and with their parents.

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Variety

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned in life is that variety is important. I don’t mean that having certain constants in life are bad. I myself enjoy schedules, lists, and being able to count on certain things each day. What I mean is it’s important not to get so stuck in a tradition or schedule that it’s not enjoyable anymore.

One example from my life is reading. No, I’ve never not enjoyed reading, but my reading was lacking in variety and it made each book a little less of an escape and a little less of a learning experience. I was saved by professors reminding me that a librarian should not only be well-read but well-rounded in their reading. In my classes there is a ton of required reading, thankfully much of it is fiction, and this led to added variety for me. I had never read a graphic novel, and now I’ve read around fifteen in the last few months. I had read very few children’s books, and now I’ve read over one hundred. I had never read a book about a trans character, and now I have a shelf specifically for LGBTQ fiction. Variety allows the mind to fully absorb what it is seeing and apply it. For me adding variety into my reading was a step toward recognizing that unexpected change isn’t such a bad thing.

I’ve always loved changed when it was something I could see coming, and if it was a big change that allowed me time to get used to it afterward. However, in my adult life I have tended to hate small changes in my day to day plan. Any detours could send me over the edge straight into panic. Part of this was having Bipolar disorder, but another contributing factor was that I didn’t know how to let go. Having a husband who is definitely type B has helped me to breathe, calm down, and accept change as it comes. It wasn’t easy, and I still have flare-ups if I’m stressed, but in general I laugh more and I have the ability to be spontaneous. Variety is not the enemy, change doesn’t have to be negative, and today can have as many possibilities as tomorrow.