Looking for Alaska

Level 2
Extended Written
Text Study
3 Credits
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
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.
After reading – first response
Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Type: Fiction novel
Critically acclaimed – find proof!
Plot summary (one paragraph)
 Personal response #1
 Personal response # 2
Wide reading response
must be AT
LEAST three
long and MUST
include specific
detail from
text to back up
your personal
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…
Some starters to help you with a personal
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 lives?
Why is the setting of Culver Creek
What does the term ‘coming of age’ mean?
Discussion questions
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
Starter questions
Write for at least 10 minutes!
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?
Book cover analysis
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 text.
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.
Example analysis
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 attended.
Brief summary
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.
A quick look at characters &
setting before we get into analysis
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.”
First chapter…
When Pudge meets Alaska she is telling ‘the best
story’. What does the content of this story show us
about Alaska?
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.
When Miles and Alaska meet…
Re-read pages 21-29
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:
allure and attractiveness
‘couldn’t care less’ attitude
ability to story tell
“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 Colonel.”
When Miles and Alaska meet (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.”
When Miles and Alaska meet (the
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 contol.
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 birds-eye-view.
Symbolism = the swan and the
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 entitles
‘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’?
Stylistic technique - structure
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
 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.
Structure…some notes
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.
Stylistic technique - Contrast
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.
Character relationships
 In
your own opinion, why did
the narrator love Alaska so
much? Give examples to
back up your views.
Discussion starter:
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?
Close reading questions – ‘After’
Before Culver Creek:
 Sheltered
 Socially inept
 Inexperienced
 Naiive
 Antisocial
 Doesn’t care about
what people think of
Miles (Pudge)
By the end of the text:
Becomes more
confident because of
the people he
surrounds himself
 Changes as a person
– more rebellious,
The protagonist (what does this mean?)
Choose 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”
So MILES is…
Positive attributes
 Strong willed
 Loyal
 Smart/intelligent
 Creative
 Carefree
 Hot/sexy/good
 Witty
Alaska Young
Negative attributes
Blames herself for
mum’s death
“Labyrinth of suffering”
Confusing (mixed
Carefree (seemingly)
Free spirited
Avid reader
Alaska could be seen as the ‘antagonist’
in Looking for Alaska. Why?
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 self-destructive
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
 As
 As
 As
Give an example for each of the above.
Alaska’s self-destruction
Elusive = “This is so fun, but I’m so sleepy.
To be continued?” – her feelings for Pudge
Confusing = “She was sobbing, like that
post-thanksgiving morning but worse” - why
she is so upset just before she leaves.
OUT OF HERE!” – drink driving
Rebellious = “Alaska and the Colonel drank
wine from paper cups” – breaking all the
Culver Creek rules
Alaska traits
Best friends with Pudge
Shows him the way – Culver Creek
Introduces him to Alaska – setting events into place
Seen as the leader – “the Colonel”
Pranking mastermind – meticulous planner/attention to
Introduces Pudge to rebellion (smoking/drinking)
Poor family (solo mum/scholarship student/lives in a
Determined to achieve
Not popular, especially weekday warriors
Seeks revenge, especially when friends are involved
The Colonel
Extremely intelligent (on scholarship)
The Colonel is Pudge’s first
real friend at Culver Creek.
He is the military-style
Fiercely loyal
planner of pranks and loves
to be in control. Do you
Organised planner
think he is dwarfed by
Alaska’s shadow at times?
Does this make him resentful
of her? Find an example
Memorises things
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
Bio Poem structure
Creative, genuine, caring, enthusiastic
Daughter of Dave and Trish
Lover of reading, blue skies, chocolate
Who feels deserted when left alone, excited when in a crowd, comfortable when around family and friends
Who needs friendship, encouragement, excitement
Who gives education, second chances, advice
Who fears mediocrity, failure, unkind people
Who would like a world with no war, the ability to make a difference, a successful life
Resident of Stratford, Taranaki
Climie Road
Example of Bio Poem
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.
Your task: CHARACTER
Draw a statement
from the bag
 Decide whether you
agree or disagree
with the statement
 Think of THREE
points to justify your
 Back up your points
with specific
reference to the text
Find the people that have
the SAME statement as
you…without talking to
 Sit down together and only
state whether you agree or
disagree with the topic. Split
into sub-groups 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 stance.
Debate moot topics
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.
Debate moot topics
Main themes or ideas in
“Looking for Alaska”
The search for the
great perhaps
Last words
Growing up
The labyrinth of life
The impact one life
can have on
Loss and guilt
First love
Rebelling against
Acceptance of
disappointment in
people and
circumstances in
our lives
What does the labyrinth symbolise in LFA?
 Do you think Alaska represents the Great
Perhaps to Pudge?
 Do you think Takumi was in love with
 What does subverting the patriarchal
paradigm mean?
Theme discussion questions
We can choose to die or suffer in the
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.
Close reading statements
Stylistic techniques in
“Looking for Alaska”
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
Diary format
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”
Countdown days replaces typical
chapter format/Before and After
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
Miles narrating – first person POV
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 listing.
“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.
Short sentences
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 thinmooned 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
Figurative language/imagery
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
Coming-of-age genre
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.”
Essay narrative to end
“How will I ever get out of this labyrinth
of suffering?”
 Symbolises the character of Alaska and her
self-destructive nature, “she did not need to
fold into herself and self-destruct.” P262
 The labyrinth is representative of life – see
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 symbol?
Symbolism – Labyrinth
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