Looking for Alaska

 What are your impressions of the
cover of “Looking for Alaska”
having now read the book? How
does the cover ‘foreshadow’
events/thematic ideas that are
introduced in the text?
 What techniques (visual and
verbal) are used on the cover?
Explain why these techniques
might have been used?
 How does the cover of “Looking for
Alaska” indicate that this is a text
written for teenagers?
 What does the tagline “First friend,
first girl, last words” mean in the
context of what the novel is about?
Looks like a sepia photograph, alludes to old memories; gone but not forgotten. Edges
faded out could symbolise how people come in and out of our lives. Also shows how we
can forget memories or they can become hazy as time goes on. Car symbolic of a journey
(with road in background). Car is red = symbolic of danger/conflict. Teenager inside car
with legs out but holding on could represent the self control that we have at times but
lose. Teenagers’ innate desire to be rebellious and to make spontaneous decisions. Also
could depict how teenagers see themselves as indestructible. Font of title appears to be
handwritten, alluding again to the idea that this story is teenage-focused. The word
‘LOOKING’ is in capital letters and bolded. This could adhere to the idea of a desperate
search, a ‘wanted’ solution. ‘Alaska’ is written in italic font in a creative and unique style.
Represents individuality and creativity. Has a heart attached at the end which again
emphasises the idea that teenagers are involved (very similar to scribblings on school
books/folders) and also shows that love is going to implicate certain situations in the
Tagline: “First friend, first girl, last words”
Triple construction
Introduces the idea of first time experiences “First friend, first girl”, implying that this is a
coming-of-age text. “Last words” implies that something will happen that has a lasting
impact. Could be symbolic of goodbyes.
 What is the character’s real name and what is he called
later at boarding school?
 Where does his family live and where does he go to
boarding school?
 Explain in your own words, but with supporting
quotations for each point, FIVE ways the first chapter
sets up the characterisation of our main character, e.g.
1. his mother seems to ignore her son’s true nature.
Quote: “My mother insisted on throwing me a going
away party.”
When Pudge meets Alaska she is telling ‘the best story’.
What does the content of this story show us about
What does she do to Pudge that puts him further in awe
of her?
Why does he buy the cigarettes?
What is the symbolic significance of the swan on the
Describe the students’ view of the Eagle. How could this
be seen to be symbolic also?
For each question please supply at least one quote
to back up your observation.
Story revolves around ‘boob honking’. Alaska is filling The
Colonel in on a boy who tried it on with her over summer
vacation. Content of story shows:
Her experience
Her allure and attractiveness
Her ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude
Her ability to story tell
Her humour
“The first thing I thought was, OK, how do I extricate this claw
from my boob before it leaves permanent marks? And the second
thing I thought was God, I can’t wait to tell Takumi and the
Pulls down his pants – “She walked over to me with her
hand extended, then made a quick move downwards at
the last moment and pulled down my shorts”. Shows her
extreme confidence and flirtation.
Pudge buys the cigarettes to show that he can be a part of
Alaska and the Colonel’s crowd. A certain amount of
peer pressure was probably involved, with Pudge worried
about ‘fitting in’ and making friends. “The Colonel
talked me into paying five dollars for a pack of Marlboro
Lights I had no intention of ever smoking.”
The swan = symbolic of Alaska; beautiful yet very dangerous.
This is alluded to later on in the novel when Miles has a very violent encounter with
the swan.
“That swan is the spawn of Satan. Never get closer to it than we are now…it has some
issues with people. It was abused or something. It’ll rip you to pieces.”
Symbolises Alaska because it represents the idea of something appearing to be
beautiful, calm and in control. However, can also be destructive and angry at any
given moment.
The name “The Eagle” that the Culver Creeks students have coined is symbolic of their
headmaster because it represents him ‘stalking his prey’ and being able to see
everything. The Eagle also implies flight and being able to see everything from a
Did you like/dislike this text? Why?
What impression do you get from the cover of the novel? What does it suggest the book is about?
What is the significance of the title?
“A book can provide a link to other lives, a window to another time”. Explain how this statement
relates to Looking for Alaska.
What do you think are the main thematic ideas in the text?
What character did you like best? Why?
What character did you like least? Why?
What do you know about the way Looking for Alaska has been written (the style)?
Why is setting important in Looking for Alaska?
What does this book tell us about self-discovery and growing up?
What shocked you in Looking for Alaska? Be specific; try to think of one part of the story.
All stories are based on conflict; if everyone is happy and no one fights, there isn’t much to write
about. What conflicts provide the basis for this story? Do other conflicts develop as the story goes
along? Are these conflicts settled by the end of Looking for Alaska? How?
The ending of Looking for Alaska is satisfying. Discuss.
Write down THREE questions that you would like to ask John Green (author of Looking for Alaska).
Write a diary entry as Miles 10 years on.
Choose one word that you think describes this text and explain why you have chosen that word.
Rate Looking for Alaska on a scale of one to five.
Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Type: Fiction novel
Critically acclaimed – find proof!
 Plot summary (one paragraph)
 Personal response #1
 Personal response # 2
Response must be
AT LEAST three
paragraphs long
and MUST
include specific
detail from text to
back up your
 A character I really identified with in this novel
was…because…an example of this is…
This book made me think about…because…an example
of this is…
I was shocked when…because…an example of this is…
The style of writing Green uses is…because…an
example of this is…
I enjoyed the narrative point of view in this text
because…an example of this is…
I could relate to the issues in this text because…an
example of this is when…
 This novel is written in first person narrative style and
attempts to capture a teenage boy’s personal account
of a girl called Alaska. She was a girl who made a huge
impression on him at a new boarding school he
 Plot Fill. Fill in the plot sequence on the handout
The book begins with _______ _________ parents throwing him a __________ party, as he is leaving his
Florida home to go to _________ _______ Boarding School in Alabama. Although his parents are
disappointed when only two people attend, Miles has learned to expect nothing more: he most certainly is
not the epitome of _____________ at his current school. When pressed, he uses ____________ Rabelais's
last words — "I go to seek a _______ __________" — to explain why he is leaving home. Miles doesn't want
to wait until he dies to find his own "_________ __________".
Miles moves to Culver Creek and becomes acquainted with his roommate, Chip "___ _________" Martin.
Shortly after being introduced, Miles has earned a nickname of his own: "_______", ironic due to his
extremely _________ frame. His friendship with the Colonel introduces him to ________ _______, a girl on
whom Pudge develops a crush. On his first night, Pudge is _______________ and thrown into a lake by the
"Weekday __________", privileged Birmingham-area students. The only apparent reason is that he and the
Colonel are roommates. The Colonel and Alaska are both furious, and an all-out prank war ensues. Being
friends with these pranksters also introduces Pudge to a facet of his "Great Perhaps" that he might have
only slightly anticipated, if at all: a newfound sense of danger, over recklessness at breaking rules through
such illicit activities as smoking and drinking on campus.
Pudge's affections for Alaska grow as the novel progresses, but as she is dating a boy from a different
_________, he sees his situation as hopeless. However, Alaska consistently makes subtle (and sometimes
not-so-subtle) comments on how she finds Pudge ___________. Even so, she introduces Pudge to a girl in
his math class, the shy Romanian ______ ___________, who becomes his girlfriend after Pudge, Lara,
Alaska, the Colonel, and their Japanese friend __________ play a "pre-prank" against the Weekday
Warriors. In the midst of a drinking game, Alaska reveals that when she was young, her mother died of a
______ __________, and Alaska just watched instead of calling ___. Though her father eventually forgave
her, she has always carried _______ over her mother's death.
Some time later, Alaska, Pudge, and the Colonel play _______ ___ _____, with Alaska and the Colonel
becoming extremely ________. Alaska dares Pudge to hook up with her, which he does gladly. Alaska soon
falls asleep, only to be awakened later by the ________. After talking for a few minutes, she comes back
into the room screaming and crying hysterically about being _______. Pudge and the Colonel help her to
escape and drive off campus, despite her ______________. The morning after, they learn that Alaska
crashed into a ________ ____ and was _________. Pudge and the Colonel become determined to find out
whether it was an ____________ or ___________ as they struggle with their _________ and guilt over her
 As a teenager, what are the three most important things in
your life right now?
 What is ‘The Great Perhaps’ and why does Pudge see it as
the most important thing?
 What is the labyrinth? How does it apply to our daily
 Why is the setting of Culver Creek significant?
 What does the term ‘coming of age’ mean?
 Miles writes: “Teenagers are invincible” (p262). Do you
agree or disagree? Why?
“The Great Perhaps was upon us and we were invincible. The
plan had faults, but we did not”.
 Miles comments about Chip (pg 63):
“I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to
maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But
for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me,
just like comets need tails.”
What does he mean by this? How would this story be
different if it was written by The Colonel or Alaska
 When did the story take place?
 How can you tell?
 Give a summary of the four main characters (Miles, Alaska,
Chip (The Colonel) and Takumi) including appearance and
personality traits.
Describe one important event in your own words and use
two quotes from the book to support it.
Explain the structure (layout) of the book.
Discuss the changes that Miles (Pudge) went through
because of his time at the school.
For the four main characters (above), choose ONE quote
that sums up or reveals something about each personality.
When you start reading the novel, you see
that the structure is like a diary format but it
is unusual in that its chapters are entitled
‘before’. E.g. “One Hundred and Twenty Days
 What is the effect of this structural device?
 What is so significant about the last day?
 What effect is gained by making that day the ‘last day’ and
the following chapters entitled ‘after’?
 The effect of Green using this structural device is that the ‘before’ section
builds to the climax of the text (Alaska’s death) and then the ‘after’ section
works through to the resolution for characters. The countdown/up of days sets
the reader for a grand climax or event. This follows a typical plot graph
structure, however, involves the reader more in the emotions of the characters
as the story progresses due to the text being written in a journal-like structure.
 The significance of the last day is that it builds the climax further through
showing us the part that each of the major characters played in Alaska’s death.
It is also the day that Miles and Alaska kiss and he admits his love for her while
she sleeps. The Colonel foreshadows events to come by saying “This is going to
end poorly”. It makes us aware of all the events that happened prior to Alaska’s
death and gives us a greater understanding of the loss and guilt that both the
Colonel and Miles felt in the ‘after’ section.
 Following ‘the last day’ with the ‘after’ section shows just how much of an
impact Alaska’s death had on the narrator. The ‘after’ section is when the
students learn of Alaska’s death and their journey through the grief and guilt
that they feel. It makes it more real for the reader with the text bluntly split
into ‘before’ and ‘after’ sections.
 The author uses contrast to convey different things.
The introduction to Miles at home is different to his
social life at school. But also,. The fact that we see
Miles and The Colonel in their home environments
(Thanksgiving with Dolores in the caravan; Christmas
for Miles back home) throws Alaska into a contrasting
light. She has no such family to go to.
 Task: Find the Thanksgiving dinner and write down a
quote that shoes the happiness The Colonel or Pudge
feel about it.
 Spend 10 minutes writing down your thoughts on each
of the following discussion questions. Then post your
responses in one of the four boxes around the room.
 Gather into four groups (I will allocate groups) each
group will be allocated one postbox.
 Continue the discussion using the notes provided from
the rest of the class.
 Using an A3 sheet of paper display the thoughts from
your class and your own responses as a group.
Discuss the book’s unusual structure. Why do you suppose
Green chose this strategy for telling this story? What does it
add to the novel? How else could the material have been
structured? Would the effect have been different?
Miles tells the story in his own first person voice. How might
the book differ if it had been told in Alaska’s voice or the
Colonel’s? Or the voice of an omniscient narrator?
Mile’s teacher Dr. Hyde tells him to “be present.” What does
this mean? What do you think “The Great Perhaps” means?
Alaska loves these two lines from the poet W.C. Auden: “You
shall love your crooked neighbor / with your crooked heart.”
What do these lines mean to you and why do you thin Alaska
likes them so much? Was it necessary for Alaska to die?
 Although Alaska has no family as such, she does form interesting
and resilient friendships. She is a huge influence on Pudge’s life.
The book is modern in that it captures the fact that a girl can
advise and give intelligent opinions about life, as well as manage
to lead the main character into tricky situations. E.g. Alaska
watches a porn movie with Pudge and tells him that it ‘objectifies
women’. The females in the movie are no more than objects to
these men. She awakens his conscience as well as challenging
his conservative side. His conservative side is challenged when
she takes him along to bust into people’s rooms and find their
alcohol etc.
 Find a quote that shows Pudge’s alarm or reluctance to take part
in Alaska’s ideas.
 In your own opinion, why did the
narrator love Alaska so much? Give
examples to back up your views.
 Why did Chip and Pudge not try to stop Alaska from driving on
the last day?
 Where in Looking for Alaska does the ‘labyrinth’ emerge?
 Why do you think the ‘labyrinth’ could be symbolic?
 Why do you think Pudge likes to memorise last words? Give two
examples to back up this opinion.
 “Booze and mischief left me worried that I’d stumbled into what
my mother referred to as ‘the wrong crowd’; but for the wrong
crowd, they seemed awfully smart.”
What does this quote tell you about Pudge?
What does it tell you about his friends?
Before Culver Creek:
By the end of the text:
 Unpopular
 Becomes more confident
 Sheltered
because of the people he
surrounds himself with
 Changes as a person –
more rebellious, carefree
 Socially inept
 Inexperienced
 Naive
 Antisocial
 Doesn’t care about what
people think of him
The protagonist (what does thisChoose
TWO of the adjectives
and find a quote from the text
that backs up each trait.
Inspired by famous last words
Seeking his own “Great Perhaps”
Positive attributes
 Independent
 Strong willed
 Loyal
 Smart/intelligent
 Creative
 Carefree
 Hot/sexy/good looking
 Witty
Negative attributes
 Blames herself for mum’s
 Self-destructive
 Moody
 Reckless
 Tease
 “Labyrinth of suffering”
 Confusing (mixed
Alaska could be seen as the ‘antagonist’ in
Looking for Alaska. Why?
Carefree (seemingly)
Free spirited
Avid reader
She grapples with self-control throughout the
text. Find TWO examples that show how
Alaska’s mood changes suddenly.
Alaska embodies the idea of teenagers
rebelling. Why is this? She is constantly
‘living on the edge’. Do you think she finds this
exciting or is it just an example of her selfdestructive behaviour? Find an example from
the text to back up your ideas.
Read the chapter “The Last Day” (from page
157) again and answer the following:
What happens that portrays Alaska…
 As elusive?
 As confusing?
 As tragic?
 As rebellious?
Give an example for each of the above.
 Elusive = “This is so fun, but I’m so sleepy. To be
continued?” – her feelings for Pudge
 Confusing = “She was sobbing, like that postthanksgiving morning but worse” - why she is so upset
just before she leaves.
OF HERE!” – drink driving
 Rebellious = “Alaska and the Colonel drank wine from
paper cups” – breaking all the Culver Creek rules
 Best friends with Pudge
 Shows him the way – Culver Creek
 Introduces him to Alaska – setting events into place
 Intelligent
 Seen as the leader – “the Colonel”
 Pranking mastermind – meticulous planner/attention to detail
 Introduces Pudge to rebellion (smoking/drinking)
 Poor family (solo mum/scholarship student/lives in a caravan)
 Determined to achieve
 Loyal
 Not popular, especially weekday warriors
 Seeks revenge, especially when friends are involved
The Colonel is Pudge’s first real
 Extremely intelligent (on scholarship)
 Boisterous
 Poor
 Rebellious
 Fiercely loyal
 Organised planner
 Quick-thinking
 Leader
 Memorises things
friend at Culver Creek. He is the
military-style planner of pranks
and loves to be in control. Do you
think he is dwarfed by Alaska’s
shadow at times? Does this make
him resentful of her? Find an
example from the text to back up
your ideas.
First name
4 adjectives that describe them
Lover of (3 things that they love)
Who feels… (3 feelings or opinions)
Who needs… (3 needs)
Who gives… (3 gifts)
Who fears… (3 fears)
Who would like… (3 wishes)
Resident of… (town and city)
Street name
Last name
Choose ONE main character from “Looking for Alaska” (Miles, The Colonel or
Alaska). Create a powerpoint on your chosen character and post on wikispace.
Powerpoint should cover the following:
Why is the character important in Looking for Alaska?
What is the character’s appearance?
What strengths and weaknesses does the character have?
What does the character think and/or say about themselves?
How does the character act and react?
Is the character associated with particular settings or personal possessions?
What is the character’s background?
What beliefs and values does the character have?
How would you describe the character’s personality?
What do other characters think and/or say about the character in question?
4 quotations that reflect personality/behaviour
It should be presented well with symbols or pictures also illustrating character.
The final page of powerpoint will have the Biopoem you have written for your
chosen character. You will need to become a member of the wikispace in order
to post your finished powerpoint.
 Draw a statement from
the bag
 Decide whether you
agree or disagree with
the statement
 Think of THREE points
to justify your stance
 Back up your points with
specific reference to the
 Find the people that have the
SAME statement as
you…without talking to anyone.
 Sit down together and only state
whether you agree or disagree
with the topic. Split into subgroups depending on stance.
 Combine notes. If you are by
yourself, add to what you’ve
already got.
 Be prepared to present your
ideas to class and justify your
 Alaska was responsible for her own self-destruction.
 Miles and The Colonel were right to feel guilty following Alaska’s death.
 Miles found his “Great Perhaps” at Culver Creek.
 We never get out of the labyrinth of suffering.
 The characters in Looking for Alaska are a true reflection of today’s youth.
 Pudge says “Someday no one will remember that she ever existed…everything
that comes together must fall apart”. Is this a true insight into death?
 The title “Looking for Alaska” sums up all the ideas in the text.
 Miles is a follower, not a leader.
 The search for the great
Last words
Growing up
The labyrinth of life
The impact one life can
have on another
Loss and guilt
 First love
 Rebelling against
 Acceptance of
 Finding disappointment
in people and
circumstances in our
 What does the labyrinth symbolise in LFA?
 Do you think Alaska represents the Great Perhaps to
 Do you think Takumi was in love with Alaska?
 What does subverting the patriarchal paradigm mean?
 We can choose to die or suffer in the labyrinth.
 Suffering can be transcended through finding
meaning in life.
 All our lives are intertwined and our actions affect each
other in the labyrinth.
 Death and the possibility of an after life.
 We must actively participate in life.
 The journey of self discovery is hard.
 Your life is what you make of it, it is about the choices
you make.
 It is important to be aware that every decision you make
in life can effect your future and future of others.
 Friendship is a big part of growing up.
 We all have to make mistakes to learn from them and
we can learn from others mistakes.
 The journey of self acceptance is crucial.
When writing an essay on Looking for Alaska, regardless of
what question you choose to write about, you MUST talk
about stylistic elements. This is what shows that you are
‘analysing’ rather than simply ‘discussing’. Below is a list of
stylistic devices that Green employs in Looking for Alaska. In
pairs, you will be given ONE of these elements to focus on.
You must:
 Write a paragraph that outlines how this stylistic element is important
to the novel.
 Give an example from the text of when it is used.
 Explain why Green would have used this technique. What does it add
to his writing? What does it add to the plot, themes or characters?
Diary format structure = ‘timeline’ of events
Countdown days/chapters structure
Miles narrating – first person POV
Short sentences
Figurative language
‘coming-of-age’ genre/tone
Sections – ‘Before’ and ‘After’ structure
Essay narrative to end
Symbolism (Eagle, swan, labyrinth)
 Many of the ‘chapters’ (or days) in LFA are written like a
diary entry from Miles’ POV. This is to further personalise
the story for the reader and enable them to ‘get inside his
head’. The past tense diary format provides a stream of
consciousness in the sense that we are able to experience
situations as Miles does. This adds to the first person
narrative and strengthens our personal connection with the
 “I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to
maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. Bur
for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me,
just like comets need tails.” P63
 The structural device of counting down days rather than simply
progressing through chapters works to build tension and work
up to the climax of the text (Alaska dying). This foreshadows the
main event in the text, suggesting that there will be a major
event that will change the narrator’s life forever. It also
emphasises just how important this event is to the narrator and
links with diary-like entries. The ‘Before’ section introduces
characters, setting, thematic ideas and develops plot. It leads to
the climax of Alaska drink driving. The ‘After’ section is solely
devoted to how Alaska’s death affects those around her. Issues of
guilt, loss and suffering are further developed, as is the symbolic
meaning of the labyrinth.
 “One Hundred and Thirty-six Days Before”
 The use of first person narrative POV enables the reader to
experience things as Miles does. It gives us a deeper
understanding of how he is affected by people, events and
his own reactions and feelings as the novel progresses.
This is no more clearly seen than in the event of Alaska
dying as we are limited to Miles’ own feelings and
emotions surrounding her death. The idea of guilt and
loss becomes apparent as we see him struggle to deal with
her death and the role he played in it.
 “The times that were the most fun seemed always to be
followed by sadness now, because it was it was when life
started to feel like it did when she was with us that we
realised how utterly, totally gone she was.” P 226
 Listing is an important technique that Green employs to portray
character and to add to the stream of consciousness narrative. It
is predominantly used my Miles, but also used by Alaska when
she convinces him to stay at Culver Creek for Thanksgiving
(p94). Listing is used to illustrate the coming of age genre that
LFA fits into and to provide us with insight into the characters’
thoughts. It shows their intelligence and also their ability to
methodically justify their opinions. The
sarcasm/humour/wit/irony used by characters in their dialogue
and thought processes also become clear through the use of
 “I might have asked a question about Jesus Christ Superstar,
except (1) I didn’t know what it was and (2) I didn’t care to learn,
and (3) I never really excelled at small talk.” P10
 A powerful technique used to create impact and make a
point. Green uses short sentences in LFA to build tension
and drama. Also used to emphasise narrator’s
feelings/emotions. Best seen when Miles finds out Alaska
has died.
 “Her mouth. Her dead, cold mouth. To not be continued.
I knew she was drunk. Upset.” P168
 In this instance, short sentences show that Mile’s thought
process has broken down. He is unable to cope with the
news and is struggling to absorb it. They emphasise his
shock and bewilderment at what has happened.
 Used throughout text to ‘paint a picture’ for the reader.
Makes the story more real and personal and enables us
to experience what Miles is experiencing through vivid
 “In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and
sunshine and vanilla, and on that thin-mooned night I
could see little more of her silhouette except for when
she smoked, when the burning cherry of the cigarette
washed her face in pale red light.” P 27
 In LFA Miles is initiated into adulthood through newfound knowledge
and experience. Before Culver Creek he disillusioned with his ordinary
and mundane life. It is when he ventures into the unknown (or ‘The
Great Perhaps… “a more than minor life”) that he gains understanding
through his friendship with Alaska and The Colonel. He experiences a
loss of innocence as he is forced to re-evaluate his philosophy on life
and find his own place in the world. Alaska’s death aids in Miles’
coming-of-age journey.
Key indicators of a coming-of-age text are:
 ignorance to knowledge
 innocence to experience
 false view of world to correct view
 idealism to realism
 immature responses to mature responses
 Miles “writes his way out of the labyrinth”. Symbolic meaning.
 Expressive writing that details his experiences at Culver Creek and all that he
has learnt.
Details his coming-of-age
Religious connotations
Philosophical views on death and the afterlife
Sums up all major thematic ideas in text: Labyrinth of suffering (“I thought the
way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it did not exist..”), the Great
Perhaps (“I still believe in the Great Perhaps, and I can believe in in spite of
having lost her.”), everything that comes together must fall apart (“And I will
forget her, yes. That which came together will fall apart imperceptibly
slowly…but she will forgive my forgetting.”)
Final allusion to last words, “It’s very beautiful over there.”
“How will I ever get out of this labyrinth of
 Symbolises the character of Alaska and her selfdestructive nature, “she did not need to fold into
herself and self-destruct.” P262
 The labyrinth is representative of life – see handout.
 How does (a) Alaska (b) Pudge and (c) the Colonel
view the labyrinth? How is this important in light
of the information you have on the labyrinth as a
The story or narrative
There may be a main plot and
one or more sub-plots
In time = when
In place = where
In society = who
The order in which
the story is told
Point of view (who
tells the story)
for Alaska
The choice of words
The way they are
The use of imagery,
symbolism, dialogue, etc
Main characters
Minor characters
The ideas the novel
Any ‘messages’