Pornographic required reading in Knox Schools?

The Knox County Board of Education and those who attended the Wednesday night Knox County Board of Education meeting got an earful when the parent of a 15-year-old Karns High School student read some passages from a book her son was required to read.

“How can I raise my child in a Christian home when he is required to read about this?” Lori Seal, who was accompanied by five other parents, was referring to a book that intimately describes in detail how a girl initiates a sexual experience with a boy and ongoing sexual encounters of teenagers that includes a girl named Alaska in  boarding school.  

On the list of required reading for Knox County High Schools’ Honors and Advanced Placement outside readings for English II is a book entitled “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. It is described as a well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school.

Seal said she objected not only to her child being required to read this book, but that it is not listed with a warning. On the required reading list for English II Honors are three books in order, “Looking for Alaska”, “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, and “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose. Also on the list are six other books for English III and English IV that have an asterisk with a footnote warning they contain “Mature scene(s) or theme and language may be objectionable.” “Looking for Alaska” has no asterisk, leading parents to the opinion that it has no such matter.

Out of 216 pages there are 281 occurrences of such words Seal considers inappropriate for any 15-year-old. That calculates to 1.3 times per page which indicates to Seal that it is the theme of the book.  “If a teacher should get up and say these words in front of a class of students, they would be put in jail, and should be fired,” Seal told the Journal.

Seal read straight from the book out loud to the Board. The Knoxville Journal chose not to print an excerpt she read due to the explicit language.

The board members sat speechless at hearing such language. Two from the audience walked out. After reading the passages containing a number of what she termed “inappropriate for high school sophomores” she asked the Board to take appropriate action and remove “Looking for Alaska” from the schools, especially as required reading.

“I not only think they should take it off the required reading list, they should take it out of the schools,” Seal added, “What literary benefit would my son gain from reading this book. It is pure porn. I was embarrassed to stand up there and read that, but as a parent I am teaching my son abstinence, then the schools promote and encourage sexual behavior.”

Seal who is a labor and delivery nurse, also commented, “They don’t warn against sexually transmitted diseases or the risk of pregnancy. I see children having babies after their first and only sexual experience.”

She said even some of her liberal friends were appalled and expressed outrage after learning their teenager was required to read “Looking for Alaska”.

The Board, knowing in advance her topic, told her before she spoke that they would listen but not respond.

After the meeting School Superintendent Dr. James P. McIntyre, Jr. told the Journal that the parent identified this as an issue a couple of weeks ago and they have already removed it from the required reading list. He didn’t say whether the book was still in the schools.

Seal said he was referring to two emails she sent him  Feb. 2 and Feb. 10, to which she said he never responded. She also sent Knox County Schools English Supervisor an email explaining her objection to the book.

Nevertheless, she said that after the second email in which she threatened to go to the media, she received an email from the superintendent’s Chief of Staff Russ Oaks who referred her to an online “Reconsideration of materials and alternate materials recommendation” form she could download.

Dr. McIntyre said it was his opinion the matter had been resolved by removing the book as required reading.

By Wes Hall | 

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236 Responses to “Pornographic required reading in Knox Schools?”

  1. marie morris says:

    I loved your article in the Journal, “Pornographic required reading in Knox Schools?” I am very curious to find out how such a book was on the required reading list? Who or what teacher or school board member authorized it’s inclusion in the required reading list? What is the process for the required reading list and it is the same for all school districts in Tennessee. That is to say, does each school district issue their own unique list? The person or persons responsible for including such a book as “Looking for Alaska” should be held accountable for having this available and mandatory reading for underage school children. I’m pretty liberal in my views, but that sort of literature should never have been required reading.



  2. Leslie says:

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. That woman needs to grow up and get a life.

  3. Susan says:

    Clearly, whoever complained about the book “promoting and encouraging sexual behavior” did not read it.

    It’s a shame they removed it from the required reading list based on excerpts and not the book as a whole.

  4. Jessica says:

    What is truly ridiculous about this situation is that it the people who decided to ban the book did not read the ENTIRE novel. It is not a book about “kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school”. Not at all. It’s a novel that contains these elements because they do exist in the lives of teenagers but it is not focused on sex or drugs or alcohol. Looking for Alaska is about learning to imagine people complexly, not just one-dimensioanlly, and has changed the lives of many teenage readers, including myself.

    This book is not pornographic. It is not designed to turn people on or make them want to go have sex. If the adults had read the novel closely, they would realize John Green included sex scenes to show that physical intimacy could be as powerful as emotional intimacy. Frankly, the most sexually explicit act in the novel is very awkward and wouldn’t make anyone want to run out and find someone to have sex with.

    This was for teenagers in the Honors and Advanced Placement English classes. This means they are most likely mature enough, and smart enough, to understand what John Green was saying. It’s a shame their parents aren’t.

    • Jessica says:

      Sorry, meant to say physical intimacy could NOT be as powerful as emotional intimacy.

  5. John S says:

    Ms. Seal’s and her colleagues’ argument might have better footing if they had fully read the book, instead of jumping to conclusions based on 281 words. Pudge and Alaska’s relationship never focused on sex. The encounter they do have is awkward and uncomfortable, and could even be considered a deterrent from (rather than inspiration for) sexual activity. Additionally, this book was placed on a list for an Honors and Advanced Placement curriculum. If your high school-aged student is capable of wrapping their brain around enough literary material to be placed in an Honors or Advanced Placement course, perhaps you should trust them to realize that the fiction they are reading is not in fact propaganda soliciting an uprising in teenage sexual activity. Misinformed protesters are quite possibly the most frustrating. Please do your research before you attack something you don’t know about.

  6. Jessica says:

    My heart; It hurts. Looking for Alaska, is a beautiful story not about teenagers gone wild but rather the importance of looking at others complexly. The author, John Green, has addressed the concerns multiple times on his popular youtube channel VlogBrothers, and points out the significance of the scene is the exact opposite to what the board assumed, a problem that would have of course been rectified if ANYONE mentioned in the article actually read the book. I can not believe that as a “good christian community” they would quite literally judge a book by its cover, great PR for christians everywhere. And as for the “offensive language” I as a 15 year old (the intended audience) found it not offensive, but that it made the book more authentic. Perhaps you should have asked the readers of the book if they found it offensive their opinion should be worth more.

  7. Marie M. says:

    If you had read the book, you would know that the sex scenes are not gratuitous, but rather serve to advance the story. The novel could be interpreted as pro-abstinence, considering nothing good comes of the sexual advances. But I couldn’t expect you to know that, because you hadn’t read the book. In fact, I’m almost sad I wasted my time with the article, considering the speculative manner of the entire article and the lack of even mild journalistic integrity. People wonder why kids are getting more stupid, and it’s because you take books off of reading lists in an attempt at politically correct, trite drivel to appease the people who lack the ability to read books. Instead, you spout off opinions with little to no reasonable fact. You assume teenagers are stupid and unable to separate fiction from fact, something you clearly cannot do. Would you take Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice off of reading lists simply because they have pre and extra-marital sex? Off course you would, you’re below that reading level. Thank God we have articles like this to read. Stop breathing my air. Thanks for proving what’s wrong with society.

  8. Abigail says:

    I am appalled by this article. How dare a someone base their opinion on a book on a few scenes, not on the symbolism and meaning of those particular scenes, “kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school” is a disgraceful description of a wonderful, thought evoking and extremely well written book. Do not treat teenagers like idiots. Teenagers are already fully aware of anything written in Looking for Alaska, and they are intelligent to recognise what these scenes mean. John Green fought hard to get it on that reading list, and I’ll be damned if he goes off it. He’s a excellent writer who would not ever write “pure porn”. He has the ability (unlike a lot of parents apparently) to recognise that teenagers are smart, and they will understand. If you choose for your child to not read a book, it is your own stupid decision, but do not force a decision on other parents and their teenagers. They have the right to decide if their own child is smart enough to understand that those scenes are made to highlight the emptiness of physical contact when it doesn’t mean anything, compared to the emotional connection without.
    I plead you to allow teenagers to expand their knowledge by reading looking for Alaska.

  9. Jillian says:

    Why did the school board not bother to read that actual book? You cannot form an opinion deemed on excerpts and one person’s personal opinion.

    Look For Alaska is one of the most amazing and well-written books that I have ever read. I, as a teenager, am able to relate to it. Yes, there are what some people would deem “mature” themes in the book, but if you’re naive enough to think that as teenagers we were unable to handle it, you are ignorant. Each day we are bombarded with “mature” themes, and I have yet to be corrupted. Looking For Alaska is not about sex. It’s about the awakening of teenagers, the reality of our situations. It’s beautiful and a book that I believe everyone should read.

    On that note, it’s a public school. Your Christian morals and values are not to be looked at as laws.

  10. Vivian says:

    Seriously, she should read the ENTIRE book before making any judgement on it. Porn is definitely not the theme of the book, and neither is swearing. Looking for Alaska is written honestly. That’s how most teenagers talk nowadays, and we need to embrace that side of our culture because if we don’t, then we won’t have anyway to teach children about it properly.
    Just because she doesn’t want her child reading it, doesn’t mean she should impeach the rights of anyone else to read it. No book should be banned.

  11. Sarah says:

    “It is described as a well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school.”

    REALLY? Has this woman actually read this book?
    If every coming of age novel that featured a reference to ANY of these things had to be banned in schools then I’m afraid to tell you that there would be no coming of age novels allowed in schools!
    Coming of age is about these things, and if you think your son/daughter is going to be influenced by references of them from a novel, and not from their peers/their own life experiences, then you are a very naive parent. Novels like Looking For Alaska help teens understand the perils of growing up, banning them won’t mean your children will not be exposed to “porn, sex, drugs, alcohol and death”, but it will mean they won’t get to gain a greater understanding of them in relation to growing up. Well done, suburban moms! Once again you’ve stunted your children’s mental and social development.


  12. Laura says:

    I’ve read this book on my own and it is in no way pornographic. I point out a post by john green on his you tube channel

  13. Embolalia says:

    I think it is worth watching Mr. Green’s response to simmilar claims from 2008:

    Having, unlike the school board, it seems, actually read the book, I don’t think it’s pornographic at all. Nor do I think it will even remotely encourage me to do any of the things in the book. If one is spurred to action purely because it is portrayed in fiction, I would worry that they may start dropping anvils on people, because that’s what they do in the cartoons.

  14. Ellie says:

    “a book that intimately describes in detail how a girl initiates a sexual experience with a boy”
    - implying that sexual experiences are okay, but not if the girl initiates it. Female sexuality is a sin, guys.
    Why can’t people accept that teenagers will do what they want, regardless of whether they read about it or see it on TV? The correct response should be teach your kids about contraception, and maybe advice them towards abstinence, but really there’s not much you can do. If your kid wants to have sex, they will.

  15. Sophie says:

    Looking for Alaska is not pornographic, it’s a touching tale about life, love and yes, death, but that doesn’t make it unchristian, death is a part of life, and while there are a couple of sexual scenes they are by no means pornographic. Such scenes merely show life as it is at that age, no matter what books you allow teenagers to read, they will have similar experiences, just reading a book won’t turn them into a sex crazed maniac, but it will allow them to learn empathy. Looking for Alaska is a relatable tale and underestimating teen’s abilities to read about real issues is not the way to improve society.

  16. Sarah says:

    I feel bad for Mrs. Seal’s son. That scene is basically to show teenagers that intimate physical relationships at their age are often awkward and not at all good for them. Plus, the majority of the readers of this book are nerdy teenagers that definitely don’t party, drink, or go wild.

    Also, someone should give these parents this link.

    Go find the post about your article.

  17. Erin Regan says:

    Another mom who thinks that she knows what’s best for everyone else’s kids. If Looking for Alaska is porn, then it’s the worst porn ever.

  18. Jordan Ecker says:

    Absurd that angry mothers in this country can still hold more sway over a curriculum than trained education experts, along with logic and reason. Looking For Alaska is a book that deals with themes of love, and yes, part of love for some people has to do with sex. To leave any mention of sex out of the curriculum creates a generation of students unprepared to deal with the realities of this world. To the angry mother: Your Christian 15 yr old son in all likelihood already knows every word mentioned, and some of his friends may have lost their virginity. Maybe even he has. He won’t be your child forever, sex is an issue he will have to deal with. Why would you prefer he deals with it on his own time at a party or with his friends than at a controlled educational environment? Be rational.

  19. The Journal may very well be, as it boasts, the “oldest newspaper in Knoxville,” but I am going to hope– for the sake of my dwindling faith in the world– that it is far from the best. This article deals with a very controversial, common occurrence across high schools in the United States, yet it seems to elevate the mother as some martyr for all things holy. Worse still, the article completely fails to adress the other side, to shed light on those who actually support the book. Surely there are some sane people in Knoxville? And surely a few minutes’ research would unearth the author’s innumerable responses– one being a video– to this exact situation? Surely there could have been space given to that instead of to the mother’s unfounded claims that her liberal friends were outraged? Because, honestly, that bit is about as credible and inoffensive as a bigot saying they have gay friends who agree with them in an article about opposition to gay marriage would be. This is some of the worst journalistic writing I have encountered in quite a while, and I have been editing dozens of articles written by my borderline illiterate peers each month for the past three school years as part of my high school’s publication. Those articles are drowning in modern shorthand and grammatical errors aplenty, but at least they stick to good standards in terms of sources and bias. I cannot say the same for this article.

  20. Jordan says:

    This is ridiculous. If this woman actually READ the book, she would realize that it is not pornographic. If anything, the book delves into how premature sex is awkward and confusing. Had I read this as a teenager, I probably would have been more likely to wait to have sex… Sad that this woman has nothing better to do than police her TEENAGE (read: almost adult) son’s reading instead of letting him reading something that might be interesting and relate-able. Looking for Alaska is a simply phenomenal book that focuses on life after death, love, and coming of age. No one in their right mind is aroused by the scene, which is totally awkward. If Looking for Alaska is porn, it is the worst porn ever.

  21. Theresa says:

    As a graduate student here in Knoxville, I’m upset that the Knox County School Board would make the decision to remove the book. Anyone who has actually read Looking for Alaska would know that is it not “pure porn” and should recognize its literary value.

    Moreover, the suggestion that including activities within a book is the same as promoting said activities is illogical and altogether false. Teens are capable of thinking critically and understanding complex themes, especially in an AP class, and we should not dumb down the classroom by only allowing them to read fairytale-like works that does not present young adults realistically.

    While it is the parent’s right to choose what his or her child reads, it is not their right to choose what other teens are allowed to read, and it is a mistake to let them do so.

  22. Katrina Waldo says:

    This is claptrap. The school board should hang their hands in shame to know that, because of a FEW excerpts read by ONE angry parent, they are depriving a huge group of children a wonderful literary experience. Looking for Alaska is my favorite novel. It’s beautiful. It’s also probably the LEAST arousing novel I have ever read, so if it IS pornography, it is very bad pornography. And believe you me, irrational mother of teenager, one book will not corrupt your poor sweet baby’s innocence and ruin him as a Christian and send him packing straight to Hell. I read Looking for Alaska the first time as a high school sophomore. I’m nineteen now; still a virgin, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, am a practicing Christian. (For as much as THAT’S worth nowadays.) Basically, what I’m saying is that you are all fools. And if you knew anything at all about reading critically, you would know that Looking for Alaska aims to teach its readers that sexual encounters, without love, are empty and dissatisfying. Yeah, there’s some drinking and some curse words, but that’s just reality. If every parent can honestly say that their teenager has never been intoxicated or used profanity, then most parents are tragically deceived. Do not persecute John Green for writing down the stuff that your kids are doing behind your backs. OPEN YOUR EYES– It’s just a book.

  23. Dan Augusta says:

    I am extremely disappointed in the school board for bowing to censorship demands, and in the Knoxville Journal for publishing such a misleading and one-sided article and headline. For shame.

    Yes, there is sexual content in the book. It is there to contrast physical affection versus emotional connection, and the entire point, the lesson of the protagonist’s experience with girls, is that physical affection is no substitute for, and less meaningful without, emotional connection. Pornography is meant to titillate and arouse, which this is most definitely not.

    Furthermore, “Looking for Alaska” is primarily about coping with the death of someone close to you, and the ways in which we misunderstand and misimagine each other; these are ongoing themes in John Green’s work. Any sex and foul language is incidental. Behold the importance of reading for comprehension.

    Anyone who is shocked and appalled that foul language, sex, and other things they don’t like happen in the world, including in regards to teenagers, and that sometimes writers consider it important to include these things in their stories, is sheltered and naive.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when people talk down to teenagers and think they must be protected from the Big Scary Ideas in the Big Scary World. Perhaps instead of getting publicly outraged and waging war on a work of fiction, Ms. Seal should spend that time having some honest conversations with her son about how the world works and how they each think people should comport themselves in it. Two-way conversations; her son is old enough to have opinions of his own.

  24. Laurine L says:

    I am a 20 year old girl who read Looking for Alaska a year ago; I am not saying that there are not such things as swear words of references to alcohol or sex in the book. But, in the time we’re living in, do you actually think that your 15 year-old kid is not familiar with all of this. Nowadays with internet you find porn or have access to violent content more easily than it is to buy bread in France. he probably say these words at school or with his friends, at 15 he has probably tried alcohol or tries to find ways to get some. He or she probably had/have a boyfriend or a girlfriend; and if it is the case, I highly doubt they just sit face to face to stare in the eyes of the other. So yes, there is all of this in Looking For Alaska, but there’s no such thing as porn; John Green wrote a FICTIONAL story, but no matter how fictional it is, it still deals about life and the real world: a world where there is drugs and sex and alcohol. If you want to prevent your kid to read it, do it, but as a person who just got out of her teenage years, the best way to make your kid do something is by preventing him to do so.

  25. David Bulgarelli says:

    This is the stupidest thing I’ve read in a long time. Looking for Alaska is not even close to being about kids who “go wild with porn, sex, drugs, and alcohol”. The one sexual scene – which isn’t even explicit – in the book is awkward, unerotic, and not at all arousing (speaking as a 20 year male who finds a lot of things arousing) and the scene serves to show that doing sexual acts with somebody you don’t care about is devoid of meaning. That scene is meant to act in tandem with how his personal conversations with Alaska, the girl he loves, give him more pleasure and satisfaction than going to third base with a somewhat random girl. In short, a conversation with somebody you care about is better than sex with a girl you don’t care about. I’d think that’s the kind of message the Christian mothers would LOVE if they could only bother to try and understand what they’re reading instead of just going into a blind outrage.

    The link below goes to a video of the author explaining how his book is not pornographic far better than I ever could.

    It also makes me ashamed as a reader that the school board would decide to remove it from the curriculum based on excerpts rather than actually reading it.

  26. Julie says:

    Are you insane? Have you actually READ the book? If this is porn, it’s the most unappealing porn ever. Not to mention, I went to a Christian school for 15 years, I taught in a Christian school for 3, if you think that teenagers, Christian or not, have never heard a curse word or don’t have any concept of sex, then you’re living in a dream world.
    Every single “sex” scene in the book is awkward and embarrassing, just like real life. But I use the word “sex” very loosely to describe them, since they are far less sexual or graphic than what the average teenager sees during prime time television hours. I can think of 3 scenes of “sex” in the book, but many, MANY more scenes of the characters in their religion class. That doesn’t mean it’s a sex book, nor does it mean it’s a religion book. You can’t just pick and choose to make your point, that’s called ignorance.
    Bottom line, “Alaska” is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If a parent wants to complain that they weren’t “warned” that it contained language or depictions of sexuality, fine, but I don’t think that’s the issue here. I think there are deeper issues at play, but whatever, comments on a website won’t change ignorant minds anyway.

  27. Lisa says:

    This book is beautiful. The main theme throughout the book is that casual sexual experiences are bad- if this woman had bothered to read the whole thing, perhaps she would have realised that it is more about overcoming grief and finding hope. I feel bad for people like this; they read a couple of lines and think they have the right to pass judgement on the entire book.

  28. PRock says:

    I bet if a lot of these parents took the time to talk to their kids and what goes on in their schools they’d probably find out that this book is warning them about stuff they may witness or come across in high school and helping them understand that they’re not alone with their fears. I also bet that if a lot of these parents didn’t pressure and judge their kids they would find out that their kids have done things that they may regret that their parents wouldn’t approve of. And if they’re going to ban John Green’s book how about all of those other books that have adult situations and language? The more you try to control your kids and what they do and read the more likely they are to act out. My mom wasn’t horribly protective of me and my actions growing up and because of it I never touched alcohol until I was in England at the age of 19 where it was legal, didn’t do drugs, and didn’t even have sex until a good while after high school. It’s sad that so many parents don’t have the faith in their kids to do the right thing. no wonder they’re acting out so much.

  29. Hannah says:

    The author of the book in question has a comment:

  30. Al says:

    But, the whole point of the book is it’s honest portrayal of modern life. If someone who lives by more traditional ideals expects all literature to abide by this, they’re crazy. Look at the level of innuendo and sexuality in any Shakespeare play, but yet, should THAT be taken off lists of great literature? Look at Chaucer’s Canterbury tales. Looking for Alaska is not, and has never claimed to be, pornographic. Admittedly the school should warn parents of the content but it’s required to make the whole novel effective.

  31. Erin says:

    I am 18 and I read this book at age 15 as well. It was not required for a class, I just read it in my free time, but I can tell you that this book is anything but pornographic. To be defined as pornographic, by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the material at hand has to induce sexual excitement or arousal. Looking For Alaska by John Green does anything but that. It teaches many different lessons and raises questions about identity, the briefness of life, and how we should appreciate the time and the life we have. In my opinion, these are valuable lessons for people to learn about at any age. Also, many different stories that are required on my schools reading list, such as Romeo and Juliet, As I Lay Dying, Fahrenheit 451, Grapes of Wrath, and Leaves of Grass, all have either what is considered to be explicit language, sexually explicit content, or has many references to sex and sexual jokes. Many of these books have been banned at one time or another for these things, but are also on many lists of books and plays students should read before college. By banning these books you are stunting your child’s education. And parents, to question the literary merit of a book, when you have not even read the entire book, is a very misinformed decision. It must have some literary merit if the English teacher, who has read the entire book, considers it worth reading.

  32. Gussie Manlove says:

    Given that Mrs. Seal knows the exact number of curse words in Looking for Alaska, I have to assume that she actually READ it. If so, she’s probably aware that the book’ primary topic is grief over the death of a teenage girl. If that’s the kind of thing she finds “pornographic”, then that reflects more poorly on her her than it does on the book.

    Anyhow, forgive me if this comment is a bit off-topic. After all, this isn’t an article about John Green or Looking for Alaska or Lori Seal, it’s obviously an article about the word “the”. After all, the word “the” appears in the article’s text more than 35 times!

  33. Jim says:

    Because reputable studies have proven that if we prevent kids from reading about sex, then they won’t engage in sex.

  34. Aggie says:

    I’m sorry, but have these parents actually read the novel? I read it when I was a sophomore in high school and I have to say it in no way influenced my sexual activity. In fact I’m still a virgin (at 21, mind you). John Green is a fantastic author, one of the best currently writing and, while I was never required to read Looking for Alaska, the books I did read were much more explicit. A selection of my high school reading list: The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, Song of Solomon, Oedipus, Things Fall Apart; the list goes on. The point of this list is to show that one can read any number of novels that have inappropriate content and not be morally affected. What will affect those kids is the people in their school, their friends and schoolmates will influence them far more than the books they are required to read.

  35. Marian says:

    May I suggest to the board and these families that they should read the entire book. Looking for Alaska is a fantastic book, one I wish I had read at 17. It’s funny, sad and makes you deeply concider the people around you. Although there is no physical punishment for the characters invovled in that scene the emotion fall out is explored.

    I hope the board reconciders their desicion and that the next time some one complains about a book in school they read all of it.

  36. Charlotte says:

    This is ridiculous. If this book is considered as porn then ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ must be also – the catapillar counts fruit while Miles counts clothing items, an inappropriate image if ever there was one. In fact, I do believe that ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ is much worse for our children, what wholesome book speaks about “eating” food!? The connotations such a children’s book provides us with are downright obscene – holes in every page for the caterpillar to eat – and it should be banned from retail or kept in the adult section of the bookstore!
    Before you judge a book, try reading it; you can make any book seem inappropriate if you work hard enough and sadly a bored mother has managed to do just this with a truly flawless book. Perhaps ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is not an apt phrase to use in this situation but I believe you should not judge a book by a woman, holding but a select few extracts, with the opportunity to show how little knowledge she has on this subject.

  37. Rachel says:

    This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. John Green’s work is phenomenal and when compared to the barrage of sexually explicit nonsense hurled at today’s kids and teens by other media outlets, his work is positively chaste. At any rate, teens will learn and hear and read about sex at some point in high school. They just will. Sex is part of biology and it is part of our culture. This book is not about sex. It is not about porn. It is about growing up, making decisions, living through difficulties and figuring out who you are and what you want your mark on the world to be. So there’s some sex…it’s not the main purpose of the story.

  38. Jessica Malser says:

    “Looking for Alaska” changed my life, but not in the way these parents seem to think that it would. I was raised in a Christian home and community, and just because my friends and I read this book AS TEENAGERS did not mean that afterwards we thought sex, drugs, and alcohol were super awesome. Unlike what these parents seem to think, the book isn’t about teenagers gone wild; it’s about discovering oneself, learning about how people work, and feeling deep emotional pain and confusion, all of which are normal rites of passage for teenagers, really. I really connected with the characters in this book, not because of (or despite) the words they use or the actions they take but because of what John Green has them FEEL and how they develop throughout the book. Teenagers need to read about characters who really feel things, who make mistakes, and sometimes do imperfect things. If you’re afraid that after reading this book your teenager is going to abandon all good values, you’re drastically underestimating your child’s capacity to understand anything educational at all. This book opened my eyes to new ways of being compassionate and understanding, and most kids my age who have also read “Alaska” would agree that this book really helps.

  39. Jesse says:

    Way to be “fair and balanced” with this article. First you write an incredibly sensationalist headline, and then you only tell one side of the story. You don’t bother to mention that this book has won many awards, and most people would hardly characterize it as being “pornographic.” Apparently all it takes these days is for one parent to start screaming about anything, and the school boards will do whatever they say. No debate, no discussion, just compliance. I’m sure the Bible is approved reading in her house. There is more violence, sex and perverse behavior in that book than in Mr. Green’s novel. If she thinks by the age of 15, her child hasn’t been exposed to much worse on a daily basis, she is delusional.

  40. Ludvig says:

    I find this article infuriating. People who want Looking for Alaska (or any similar books) are assuming teenagers aren’t capable to read critically, and that they will try to enact every single thing portrayed in any kind of media. This is an act of humiliation toward the human intellect.
    Also, if anyone in the board of education had read the novel Looking for Alaska, they would find out that the book is more about growth and how to deal with loss for a beloved one, and how life actually can be during puberty.
    This book contains no naïve lies about saintly kids who read the bible every day and never think any kind of sinful things.
    John Green, the author of this book, has made a video about the true nature of his book Looking for Alaska, and by watching this video, you will find out that he is against pre-marital sex (which generally is something one would know from how awkward and horrible the sex-scenes are!). Here is a link to the video, which can be found on

    Yours sincerely, a reasonable person.

  41. Mike says:

    To Ms. Seal,

    I would normally attempt to make a well formed and unbiased argument which uses logic, non-abrasive language and that is considerate though poignant in its disagreement with just about everything you stand for, put into action and said. This response can also be addressed to the biased rhetoric put forth in this poorly written article which fails to give any real background of the book, commentary from the author or counter arguments.

    However, it has been my experience that people like you, especially when you base your arguments/actions in religion, not only refuse to listen to well thought out, poignant and fair arguments based in logic, but you also respond without the same consideration, taking things as personal attacks, and focusing in on small key words or passages (like you’ve done with the book) and missing the point all together.

    It has been my experience that people like you are of the smallest of minds, and refuse to open them for a second to the possibility that anyone beside you has anything valid to say. It is my experience that people like you act this way out of fear. An extreme fear that anything outside of what you expect or approve of will send your preciously protected and close minded world into a spiraling tailspin landing in a lake of fire.

    It has been my experience that while you have the urge to purge the world of what you see as unfit, you have no desire what so ever to consider alternative view points, individual freedoms, or to conceive the idea that you and your way of life and your values may not be a perfect fit for everyone. You will gladly censor what you don’t like, but become enraged when things that you love are censored. i.e. Prayer in schools. Rather than practice your freedom to choose and not to choose what things you want to consume (books, movies, etc) you try to ban and censor material that doesn’t fit your narrow understanding and sensitivities, thereby removing other peoples freedom to choose for themselves what they would like to consume. You are the antithesis of what America was truly founded on, though I’m sure you consider yourself a model citizen.

    If you didn’t want your child to read this book (though it is an EXCELLENT piece of young adult literature, a simple letter to the teacher/principle explaining that you want your child exempt from the requirement would have been perfectly fine. As a teacher, I can assure you those types of individual accommodation are made regularly. You might even have set up a conference with the teacher to discuss why the book was on the list, perhaps you missed its value when looking at it from your narrow point of view, but that never crossed your mind did it? The fact that the book is a best seller and has won multiple awards means nothing to you, because despite what millions of others thing, YOU know better. If that isn’t the definition of arrogant self-centered ignorance, then I don’t know what is.

    Why is it not enough to enjoy the freedom of choice and to let others enjoy that freedom as well. What is it inside of you that convinces you to the point of action that you among the 6 Billion people in this world has the correct way of looking at things and, as a necessity, must badger the rest of us with your views, values and complaints. If you wish to live in a monotheistic state where religion and government are one and the same and where anything that goes against either are strictly and violently opposed, there are plenty to choose from. However, you have the good fortune of being in America, where our founding documentation provides freedom from such a state, that you and your kind so readily try to conjure.

    I have lost nearly all of my patience with you and your kind Ms. Seal, so instead of trying to show you the error in your ways through logic, and sound argument which I have no hope in reaching you with. I will simply say this:

    I detest you, and everything you stand for. I honestly believe that you are among the worst type of people that exist in our society, hypocritical, close minded, over bearing, scared and stupid. It is my sincere hope that evolution (of which you probably reject the validity of) will squeeze you out of existence sooner, rather than later.

  42. Anna says:

    I wonder whether Ms Seal has actually read through the book, rather than just picking out scenes she found objectionable. If she had read it, I suspect she’d realize that sex and drugs, while present in the book, are not glamorized in any way – if anything, the book makes them look unappealing. Nor are these things the focus of the story: far more time is devoted into examining how people cope with sudden tragedy and loss. It’s a thoughtfully-written book and one that’s helped me to cope with various unexpected losses in my own life; it’s certainly valuable enough to be worthy of inclusion on the curriculum.

  43. Naomi says:

    This is completely ridiculous. I am a 15 year old and have read ALL of John Green’s books as well as watch all his videos on youtube and I can tell you there is no one better to have your kids look up to.
    His books are in no way porn, they are about love and life lessons.
    He’s a truly amazing writer. Take The Fault In Our Stars, his latest novel, it’s about two teenagers with cancer. They fall in love. You think this sounds like porn yet? And then ok, there is ONE sex scene in the entire book, and it isn’t even a sex scene. You get the gist that they did it, but J Green did not linger over the details. He’s not that kind of writer. He’s not a leery old man, he’s a lovely, family guy.
    He has done so much for the world community and is such an inspiration and amazing writer, Looking For Alaska should not be removed from the reading list.
    It makes me sick to think of that. None of his books are about porn or sex. They are about love, and friendship, and doing what’s right, accepting who you are and making mistakes.
    I cannot believe this has happened, the world disappoints me.
    And to the parents that complained: you honestly think a John Green book is going to make your kids into “bad” sex & porn crazed kids? Yeah right. Believe me, your kids are probably a) watching ACTUAL porn and b) hear much worse from their friends at school. Seriously, the people reading this are 15, not 5.
    You should be goddamn grateful for this amazing literature rather than chastising it.
    As for wanting your kids to wait until marriage, that’s fine, people. Your kids will do what they want. it’s up to them what they do, and believe me John Green isn’t going to make them into devils or send them to hell by being promiscuous. Not gonna happen. You need a reality check.

  44. ben says:

    Having read looking for alaska I have some problems with the idea of baning it. I feel that there should be an option to not read it however it is a great book and highschoolers should be encouraged to read it. It should be noted the book is not in any way pornographic. Yes there is one point describing a sexual encounter but it is short and should be considred “pornographic”. I hope people can realize this is a great book.

  45. Nina says:

    I don’t understand why parents are so against teens reading this book. If it has bad language? Guess what, teens use that kind of language when their parents aren’t around.

    As for the sex? I read that book when I was a sophomore in high school, and I’m still a virgin. I’m 21 years old, and a junior in college, studying abroad. Let me tell you, that book will do nothing but be a gateway into reading even MORE amazing books.

  46. Anna says:

    First of all, Looking For Alaska is not a book about children gone wild in a boarding school, it is about a boy struggling with the so-called “Big Questions” while he is away from his home for the first time, set against a backdrop of typical, yes, TYPICAL high-school hijinx. Christians are allowed to know that consenting young adults can have sex with eachother. As a Christian I can say that the sexual content in this book is neither titillating or explicit, and it makes a strict point that illustrates that such physical connection is not the same as an emotional bond. Please, please read this book from a literature standpoint. Has this woman’s son read the Bible at all? Scripture is FULL of historical events of rape and incest and sex, but points to a message of salvation and hope. This, of all contemporary fiction books on the shelves today deserves to be absorbed by young people. Shame on you and your judgement without context.

  47. Joy says:

    This is a very unfair depiction of a brilliant novel. Ms. Seal complains about the explicit language and sexual encounters in the novels. I suggest she walk into any high school and listen to the conversations, they will more often than not include much more explicit language. Also, instead of judging a book on a few passages, i suggest that the parents, especially Ms. Seal, read the book in its entirety. It discourages casual sex and encourages meaningful relationships. The author is a brilliant man and explains his position much better than I could ever hope to. You can watch it here:

  48. An outraged and ashamed former student says:

    I graduated from a Knox County high school last year. I am so furious and ashamed. I am ashamed of where I am from due to the absolute idiocy in this article.

    “Pure porn?!” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

    The people objecting to this book have clearly not read it. If you consider this porn and masturbate to it there is something deeply wrong with you.

    This book means so much to me. It shaped who I am. I read it for the first time in seventh grade. I do not drink. I do not smoke. I do not do drugs. This is my favorite book. How dare the ignorant parents say this is a bad influence on teenagers? If they had read this book they would understand that the author is showing the negative consequences of underage drinking. A girl dies from it. One of the messages of this book is how terrible alcohol is. Also, the scenes are not graphic and are nowhere near porn. This is a realistic book that teenagers can learn from. It is a beautiful work of art.

    I have checked out Looking For Alaska from Knox County school libraries many times. I have suggested it to many teachers as a reading list book. This is a deeply personal issue to me.

    If brief mentions of sexual activity are enough to be considered “pure porn” then why do we allow teachers and students to even mention the Bible with its multiple passages about sex, rape, masturbation, and alcohol?

  49. Vicky says:

    You’ve got to be kidding!
    I read that book. It is not at all ‘porn’!
    I think, parents who argue against their children reading this book based on only an excerpt should be required to at least read the whole book, before they object!

    The point the book makes is, that excactly that one (single!) scene, that could be described as a sexual act (they don’t even have intercourse, so warning about unwanted pregnancies does not make any sense!)is NOT desirable!
    The whole point of the scene being included is to show, that other moments are much more meaningful and important, and that a physical relationship is nothing in comparison!
    If you bother to really read that scene in the context, you’ll see, that it does not in any way portray this scene as erotic or desirable or positiv for that matter…

    So basically, it rather supports the ‘Christian way’, so to call it! Why people with the same ideal should oppose to this, is beyond me.

    And just a sidenote: if mentioning of sexual actions alone is enough to ban a book from students reading it, there will be no more Shakespeare (‘Romeo & Juliett’ has two teenagers spending the night together against the will of their parents, if you really want to boil it down to physical facts) in schools!

    And on another thought: the BIBLE? It’s full of murder and sex! If it doesn’t matter, in what context that is presented or what message it is trying to bring across, but the simple mentioning is enough to make it a threat to kids, then I’d say the same christian parents should make sure, their kids never get a hand on the Bible, as it is obviously dangerous for them to read!


    Get real!

    It’s a book, not a pedophile trying to seduce your children! They are intelligent and mature enough to understand the message it contains and even if there really was a book on the required reading list, that didn’t meet those standards:
    if you raised your kids well, reading a book will not make them question everything they thought was right so far!

    Have a little more faith in your own children!

    (Sorry for any spelling or grammar mistakes – english is not my first language.)

  50. Sarah says:

    If this woman had actually read Looking For Alaska instead of only certain out-of-context excerpts, she would realize that one of its main messages is the emotional emptiness of casual sex, and the rewards of waiting for someone you care about. I hope this decision is reconsidered; as it stands, students are missing out on a lovely and worthwhile novel.

  51. Amanda Lee says:

    I find it appalling that the school would choose to remove a book from the school reading list without reading the book itself, as they would see that it is not a “pornographic” book. In fact, the sexual content in Looking for Alaska is so far from titillating, and is in fact meant to showcase the emotional immaturity of the characters and the situation that they’re in.

    If it turns out that the school actually removed the book from the school in addition to removing it from the list, then someone needs to step forward and warn of the consequences of banning and removing books, especially without having read them.

  52. Trevor says:

    I can’t believe people are actually still like this. I guarantee that not one of those parents or school board members has actually read the entire book. If they had, maybe they would have understood why the book has won the awards that it has. this book presents real life situations, and I read it when I was 14. parents like this have no idea that they’re taking away from kids when they ban a book. how about you let your kid read it, see for himself if he likes it, and make an informed decision. your kid won’t be an individual if all you do is shelter him. This book is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Try reading a book fully before making an uninformed decision based on the language and one excerpt.

  53. Rachel says:

    What a distortion of what the book is really about. It is in no way pornography. The scene they are talking about it is an extremely awkward first sexual experience and it’s important for teens to be allowed to read stuff like this. Stop insulting teenagers by banning books. Try reading the whole book.

  54. Josh Garfi says:

    I am sorry, but this is ridiculous. Looking for Alaska is a brilliant book. Upon reading it I was profoundly moved and it changed my outlook on life for the better. However, one thing it did not do (and I think I speak for everybody who has read this book), was to make me want to go out, get drunk, take drugs and have sex. If the scene had been read in context in would be quite clear to anyone who knows anything about critical reading that the book is actually discouraging teens from engaging in such acts. If this book is porn, it is the worst porn I have ever read, but that does not make it any less of a great novel.

  55. John Mortimer says:

    Have they read the book? I mean ACTUALLY read it? not just gone through looking for things they might find objectionable.

    Has the writer of this article read it? instead of reacting to what a group of probable semi-literates had to say about it.

    If any of these people had taken the time they might find that “Looking For Alaska” is in fact a work of literary genius and a tale of self-discovery, friendship and loss.

    It is not about death but the value of life in spite of the fact of death. The act of recognising the finality of death and choosing life in spite of it.

    Choosing the labyrinth, even though it sucks.

  56. Charlotte says:

    I used excerpts from this book to help me in convincing a very close friend of mine to not take his own life. I will not hear a word said against it.

    As someone who has recently been fifteen (only five years ago) I believe that there is nothing in this book that the average fifteen year old has not talked about, or should be thinking about. They should be thinking about it so that they can make up their own minds about how they feel about it, what is right and wrong, how to deal with mistakes and death and being shallow and not making the most of the time that you have with friends. FI you have brought up your son or daughter well, they will see exactly where Pudge and Alaska and all their friends make their mistakes, and how things could have gone differently and they can think about the “what if”s.

    I read this when I was sixteen, and wished that I could have read it earlier so that I would be more prepared for things that were happening in my life that I didn’t have the words for. I had read books by age thirteen that I certainly agreed shouldn’t be in the school library, but Looking for Alaska was never one of those books. All the fifteen year olds I have met and been friends with and have worked with (I work in Youth Theatre) would become more mature and more well-rounded human beings for having spent time in the company of Alaska.

    I think that if you read the whole book it’s actually a story about how you can love someone for all their little personality quirks, and their mystery and the fact that they are so wonderful. They have one kiss. There is also a very awkward sexual encounter which is not described in an erotic way, just in a way that you might hear about reproduction in a biology class. And it’s awkward. And he feels bad about it afterwards.

  57. Lisa says:

    That is the most messed up description of “Looking for Alaska” that I’ve ever read.

    PORN? Seriously…? No. Hardly. Not even.

  58. Kristin says:

    These parents should be ashamed of themselves censoring their kids so much. Back in my day if a parent had a problem with a book they’d conference with the teacher and come up with a solution, usually an alternative to read. Removing the book because the few, not the many have a problem is wrong.

  59. Margo says:

    When you say that the board was speechless after hearing “such language,” were you referring to the excerpt from John Green’s Looking for Alaska, or the uninformed and censorious claims that were being made about a book Ms. Seal had clearly never read in its entirety? If the latter, I can wholeheartedly understand the board’s shocked silence. If the former, I am impressed by this journalist’s ability to read the minds of an entire school board simultaneously.

    Furthermore, I would like clarification on the following passage:
    ” It is described as a well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school.”
    Described where? Am I to believe this is how Knox County High School describes the book on their Honor’s list? Or are you suggesting that this is how the book is generally summarized by critics and general readers? As a Teen Librarian in a large public library who has read many young adult book reviews in a variety of respected publications, I have never heard Looking for Alaska described so irreverently and with such little understanding of the novel. In fact, reviewers generally praise the novel as an ambitious story about a host of realistic, complex, and intelligent young characters. (And then they give awards, e.g. Michael Printz Award, American Library Association Best Books of 2006, Booklist Editor’s Choice Award, Kirkus Reviews’ Editor Choice Award, and School Library Journals’ Best Books Award.)

    Overall, I would like to express my disappointment in the Knoxville Journal for publishing such an uninformed and slanted piece about a highly important topic.

  60. Monica says:

    That lady is a complete idiot. If you believe your child is saint and knows nothing about the actions in the book, then you are naive. Read the entire book before you go off on a rampage.

  61. Charlotte says:

    This is also a Quote from Looking for Alaska
    “If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.”
    And This:
    “Just like that, from a hundred miles and hour to asleep in a nanosecond. I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep… Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessley boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”



  62. Skye says:

    I’m an english major who read Looking for Alaska two or so years ago. I suggest that concerned parents 1. Read the book for themselves. and 2. Weight it seriously against the books/movies/games they allow their children to partake in.
    Why should you read it yourself? Because this article is very skewed and false. How?
    Looking for Alaska IS NOT PORN.
    “‘literary benefit would my son gain from reading this book. It is pure porn.’” No, no it’s not. There are two sexual scenes. One of them is of two characters watching porn and commenting about how unloving and therefore, un-sexual it is. Two kids talking about how porn isn’t sexy? Yeah, sounds arousing! The second scene is a very awkward blowjob between two virgins. So no, they don’t talk about safe sex, and there’s no risk of babies as you correctly mentioned.
    The book also doesn’t promote it. Why do I say that? While there is a sex scene, the book isn’t suggesting that it’s a good thing. In fact, it argues otherwise. The sexual blowjob scene is emotionally empty.
    If you still want to condemn Looking for Alaska, you have to use the same line of thinking and also condemn the Bible. (Which has sex, incest, and rape.)
    And if you use the logic of, “But the bible doesn’t SUPPORT those events.” I would say yes. In the same what that Looking for Alaska doesn’t.

  63. Will Strakalaitis says:

    Watch this video. This is not a spam, or a threat, or anything objectionable. This is Looking For Alaska’s author John Green’s response to his book being banned… four years ago. The fact that this issue is still relevant deeply saddens me and everyone who has actually read the book cover to cover, not just excerpts. Replace “Depew” High School with the name of your school, and this video applies to this situation. I hope your decision is reversed.

  64. Natalie says:

    The author of the book in question, John Green, has already addressed an issue similar to this in a video he did for his web blog a few years back.

    To paraphrase Mr. Green, Looking For Alaska contains a frank sex scene that is meant to draw contrast between emotional intimacy, and physical intimacy as a cheap substitute for such. This is not a conclusion that can be reached, however, by simply counting the number of “inappropriate” words in the book. Try reading it before you ring your alarm bells and make your empty, and inaccurate, accusations.

  65. Nerdfighter says:

    “What literary benefit would my son gain from reading this book. It is pure porn.”

    How can you say that? Have you read the book? Clearly you haven’t. The book Looking for Alaska is incredibly beneficial. It is a great piece of fiction with a lot of meaning and purpose. It is in no way “pure porn”. Readers in high school can definitly learn important life lessons from LFA.

  66. Sam says:

    Having read Looking for Alaska I’m appalled that the board would ban it without having read it for themselves. Seal’s description of the book as “pure porn” is over dramatic and absurd. There is one sexual encounter in the book, but it is not very detailed and is extremely awkward. Although there is coarse language and alcohol there is no drug use. The novel is not about “kids gone wild”, it is about a journey of self discovery for the main character. I can understand why some parents might have issues with their children reading the book, but do not take the right to read it away from those who do not. Especially if you have not read it for yourself. I can only imagine how Seal will react when her son has to read The Catcher in the Rye later in high school.

  67. Robert says:

    Seriously, I am about to throw my computer across the room. One of the best novels for any teenager to read on the realities of life and how to deal with death and it is banned because of a women who lives in some made up world of her own in her own little head. This book is more moving than almost any other book I have read. John Green is a brilliant communicator and through his books brings the tough realities of what teenagers have to deal with to the forefront of their mind forcing them to think harder on how best to spend the life they’ve been given. I am truly disappointed.

  68. Luca Masters says:

    Claiming Looking for Alaska is porn is utterly absurd, and flat-out dishonest. Perhaps the board of education should consider enrolling in an AP English class at Karns High School, reading the WHOLE book (it’s not that long, I promise), and consequently discovering that one message in the book is that sex is a poor substitute for emotional intimacy. That’s the opposite of pornography.

    If his reading this book keeps you from raising your son in a Christian home, you’re doing it wrong.

    (And “even some of her liberal friends were appalled and expressed outrage”? Well then you know it must be bad–liberals NEVER over-react.)

  69. Sara says:

    This is ridiculous. To reduce a book like “Alaska” (a Printz winner) to “well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school” is the equivalent of calling a classic such as Gatsby a story about guns, murder, alcohol, suicide, and licentiousness. It misses the point, oversimplifies the material, and indicates complete and utter ignorance of the book itself. Any parent who thinks a book can be summed up by how often a certain word appears is not familiar enough with what a book is to render judgement upon one.

    In addition, raising a child to be abstinent and completely shielding them from knowledge of sexual reality are two very different things. If you think that making sure your son has no exposure to teen sex at all is the best way to educate him to make an informed decision to be abstinent, you are sorely mistaken. Likewise if you believe that reading a YA novel with a sex scene in it will cause him to hop into bed with the first willing partner.

  70. Brittany says:

    This is completely absurd. Looking for Alaska is no more pornographic than a PG movie. While a teacher may not be comfortable reading it aloud in a classroom setting it is perfectly acceptable to have it in a library. They said themselves it was well written. It also happens to be one of my favourite books. Plus, your religion shouldn’t have an effect on what is being taught.

  71. Sammi says:

    This is ridiculous. I have read the book, along with most of John Green’s work. What he writes is truthful and relatable fiction through the eyes of teenagers. I am saddened to think that because of this awful woman, hundreds of young teens at this school will now miss out on an incredible piece of literature.
    Also, I dont know what porn this idiot of a woman has been watching, but I can assure anyone reading this article that there is nothing pornographic about this book. At all.
    Lastly, I find myself incredulous that this sort of thing even occurs. In England, we read what we are told to read and any parent who came up with ridiculous claims such as this would be told to calm down and understand that it’s important material for learning and that whilst a book may contain sex, drugs, bad language, muder or anything else deemed ‘inappropriate’ the school is not condoning the acts but are educating the students about them, the way they are dealt with and of course the literature surrounding them. Banning books just doesnt happen here. And here I was thinking America was all about ‘freedom of speech’ whereas censorship seems to be such an abominable part of your culture. It’s no wonder the American education system is failing so terribly when a parent cares more about a few words inside a book than what their child will be gaining from the book as a whole.

  72. L says:

    …LOOKING FOR ALASKA is not pornographic. It’s a shame that the first thing some people jump to is book banning, when they could sit down and have reasoned discussions with their kids about the book in question. In fact, maybe if more teens and/or their parents read books like John Green’s, they would be able to talk about them and connect with each other better.

  73. Jacob says:

    I am appalled at these adults. First of all before I go into this, I need to say that yes, it was stupid of the teacher not to warn the parents about the language.
    Something that happened after that ‘sex’ scene was a beautiful and emotional scene where a character and another share a special moment together without having sex, compared to the really awkward ‘sex’ scene, if you could even call it sex. It was suppose to show sex can’t compare to normal special moments.
    I would be very surprised if any of these parents that were so outraged actually read the book. By read I mean, not counting the curse words, or looking at only the sex scene, but reading it like it is a new book you have heard a lot of good stuff about, and read it like an adult.

  74. If you’ve ever read Looking for Alaska, you will know that the book is not one that encourages sex or drinking or smoking. The scene in question- the blowjob scene, I presume- is included as it is because it is so awkward. It doesn’t promote or romanticize sex. It doesn’t make it sound like a desirable thing. The scene is awkward and uncomfortable to provide that realism of a sexual relationship that is required to look at it properly. I would argue that if young adults- teens who have already made complete and very biased decisions about what drinking and smoking and sex is based on what they learn in the media and in television and in other books already, who already know about these things and the serious repercussions that they could have- are only exposed to literature that scans over or does not include scenes like this, we will indeed be lead to believe that sex is just this romanticized and perfect thing that we see in other places. Reading this passage from Looking for Alaska IN CONTEXT WITH THE REST OF THE BOOK is a refreshing look at the sexualized forms of entertainment we are exposed to every day and the reality of it. Looking for Alaska is certainly not pure porn. This book is deeply moving and thoughtful and tackles all sorts of issues- death, remembrance, importance, growing up, moving on, and so much more. If the theme of this book is kids gone wild on porn, booze, and cigarettes, then it is a very bad book indeed, but if it is one about finding yourself and your place in context with the people you know, as well as the very real issues of life and death and your importance in the Universe, then it is life-changing and impactful and beautiful, really.

  75. Michael says:

    Clearly Ms. Seal has not actually read the book, but rather saw a dirty word and decided it must be porn. It is difficult to express the degree to which the entire point of Mr. Green’s award winning novel has been lost on Ms. Seal.

  76. Abigail says:

    The actions taken by this school board disgust me. Looking for Alaska changed my life. Sure it contains mature themes, but that is NOT the theme of the book, nor it it the lesson I gained from reading it. Looking for Alaska remains one of my favorite books, because it is so incredibly touching and beautiful.

    Every teenager (and adult–both of my parents loved it) should read this book.

  77. Adam Harrison says:

    I am 14-years0old and I have read looking for Alaska and I am happy to say it is not pornographic. I am also happy to say that it one of my favorite books, I live in England and I wish I had to read this book as part of my English rather than a poo book about men working on a ranch (Of Mice Of Men). Looking For Alaska is an amazing book. End of story.

  78. Megan says:

    This is absurd. “Looking for Alaska” is such an incredible and meaningful book. To be taken away simply because there may be things that one overly conservative parent finds to be “inappropriate” for her child is terrible. Yes there are a few parts of the book that talk about sex, but the fact that Lori Seal found that many issues with the book leads me to believe she was searching for anything that may seem slightly against her beliefs. Is her kid going to public school? Let me tell you, if he is then this book should be the least of her worries. The bottom line is the world is filled with things that she will not find suitable for her child, and if she wants to keep him in a bubble all his life her biggest problem will be him going out and experiencing such things as opposed to reading about it in a book and asking question and getting answers. It saddens me that there are people who would take a book such as “Looking for Alaska” and make it out to be something nasty. “Looking for Alaska” is to porn as ice cream is to hot chocolate. I hope some day she sees the light, but unfortunately most people in that mind frame refuse to believe that maybe they could be wrong.

  79. vath says:

    The “sex scene” in looking for alaska is in no way arrousing, if anything it would make you not to ever want to have oral sex in your life. Its akward and lacking in emotion. Contrasting with a scene a bit after that without sexual contact is much more emotional and intense.
    And the book doesnt have or say anything that a sophomore havent heard or even done.
    Is because of people like this that the US doesnt have a public helthcare system or hasnt signd the kyoto protocol, if they cant even see the meaning of such an honest and beautiful novel. Some people should be ashamed

  80. Stanley says:

    Do take the trouble to read this, if you would. I am, first and foremost, a student. I am eighteen years old, in full-time education and taking a course in English Literature (among others) at a sixth form college. Regrettably, or not, I have no idea what that equates to in the American education system. I recently opted to write about John Green’s Looking For Alaska in my coursework, of my own volition. I should like to express my profound opposition to the behaviour of this Mrs Seal, whom I consider to have grievously misunderstood not only the nature of this novel, but of life.
    Firstly, I have taken the liberty of investigating the Oxford English Dictionary, to clarify Mrs Seal’s meaning of “pornography”, which it gives as “the explicit description or exhibition of sexual activity in literature, films, etc., intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings” or “literature characterised by the same”. I should like to draw attention to the intention section of these definitions. In fact, several sparkling bells and a large neon sign prancing and dancing around them would be great appreciated. It might even be useful. As this journal has fallen over itself in the hurry to avoid quoting any of the book discussed, I must crave your indulgence for daring to both own and quote my copy, with the greatest of discretion and consideration for your poor, poor nerves.
    The article in question states that the book “intimately describes in detail how a girl initiates a sexual experience with a boy and ongoing sexual encounters of teenagers”. Ignoring the mild tautology of description which is both “intimate” and “in detail” (given that intimate doubles up as “detailed”), I acknowledge that the book does contain references to one rather deliberately awkward scene of oral sex, and a practical joke involving a man removing his clothes in a public place, the remainder of the “ongoing sexual encounters of teenagers” are stated as fact, rather than explicitly described. The one scene of explicit description begins with ignorance (“Should I do sometheeng?”), and asking Alaska for instruction in the matter, and ends with awkwardness: “I was embarrassed and nervous”. Both teenagers then return to doing homework. If anything, this “embarrassed” state emphasises that, due to the lack of connection between the two, their “sexual encounters” are awkward. Pornography is not awkward. Pornography is designed to be enjoyed, not make one cringe. I most fervently believe that Mrs Seal is utterly mistaken in her description of it as “pure porn”, and advise that she invests in the services of a decent dictionary. Frankly, I fail to see how anyone can possibly be titillated by the description of an awkward and clumsy oral sex scene, lacking in any kind of emotional connection. If anything, this is, surely, a reinforcement of beliefs that love is important to any such encounters, which I am sure those wishing to “raise [their] child in a Christian home” should not object to.
    Alaska’s sexual encounters are obvious, but are not the key subject matter of the book, nor are they described “in detail” as you, falsely, claimed. At no point do Alaska’s sexual exploits become the main object of the novel, and it must surely be accepted as a fact of existence that teenagers are having sexual experiences; I can only recommend that those parents who feel it would be frightfully improper for their children to even hear the word “sex” immediately take action to check over all sentences being spoken in their child’s vicinity before they are permitted to be voiced. Indeed, a microphone per teenager campaign should be introduced, to cut down on talk of such an outrageous nature (not the mention the 1.3 ghastly words per page), and censorship brought into all walks of life, to avoid the corruption of about six children. My very best wishes to them, along with a kick up the arse.
    Furthermore, your article goes on to described this novel as “well-written”, which is absolutely true, but couples it with such a ridiculous notion that this adjective is called into disrepute! It is stated that the subject matter is “kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death”. Again, these do feature in the novel, as a bildungsroman of sorts. However, anyone who reads this novel cannot escape the emotional impact of the story, as the main character manages to find hope, even faith; the common motif of life as a “labyrinth of suffering” is seen as escapable, and an almost religious realisation that, although “I don’t know where there is…I know it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful”. Surely, as the ending line of the novel chooses to focus upon spirituality rather than sexuality, this is a more important theme of the book!
    In conclusion, I would recommend that those so caught up in condemnation take a moment to either read the book in its entirety, rather than selecting a few passages as typical, for their own ends, or simply give up reading henceforth, as their skill in analysis and subtext is clearly ill-suited for such pursuits.
    Yours aggrievedly,

  81. Paige Railstone says:

    I hate the way they are literally judging a book by its cover on this one. This book is simply life-changing, and a few concerned mothers shouldn’t be able to take away the privilege of reading it.

  82. The smarter half of parents says:

    This is ridiculous. If you think that your fifteen year old hasn’t heard any swear words and that they have no idea what sex is, you’re just being ignorant to the world around you.

  83. Sarah says:

    Looking for Alaska is one of the most non-erotic books I have ever read. Any parent who finds the handful of paragraphs in it that deal with awkward teenage sex to be pornographic or inappropriate are insulting their children by believing that they’re not capable of understanding the significance behind John Green’s words.

    Sex isn’t dirty or shameful. Sex in high school certainly isn’t uncommon and I don’t see how anyone could be offended by Mr. Green’s portrayal of teenagers experimenting with sex. I found Looking for Alaska to be well-written, deeply moving, and thoughtful. Perhaps if parents actually READ the book, they would see this. However, it seems they would rather get irrationally upset over a handful of REALISTIC scenes in the book concerning sex.

    Sherman Alexie’s article on young adult books which can be found here: offers a similar perspective and I think it would be beneficial to read it. Parents are underestimating the maturity of their children.

  84. Julia L. says:

    News flash, lady: your kid sees and hears worse things than that in the Karns High School girls bathroom than in this beautiful, heartbreaking, honest story. I can attest to that since I went to Karns High School. And ‘christian household’? What the hell does that even mean anymore? That your kid should only read the Bible and other Jesus-approved literature? People are ruining our country’s readership. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking, real-life book that is only pornographic if your twisted views lead you to interpret it that way.

    Oh yeah, and there’s an 80% chance your kid is already having sex, anyways.

  85. Laura says:

    The author of the book in question, John Green, has made a response to this very claim. You can watch it at this link:

    (I you don’t want to click a strange link on a comment, the video is called “I Am Not A Pornographer” and it can be found on his youtube channel called Vlogbrothers.)

    Anyways, although I agree that the book should have had an asterisk warning about the content of the book, the sexual scene in question actually argues for emotional connections over meaningless sexual encounters, and that is a fact discovered when one reads the scene in context with the rest of the novel.

    Also, as a side note: Ms. Seal claims that the book contains words that are “inappropriate for any 15-year-old.” However, any 15-year-old who does not themselves use such words, encounters them on a day-to-day basis in high school.

  86. Lisa says:

    “What literary benefit would my son gain from reading this book.”?

    Having read the book myself, I can attest that “literary” benefit abounds! This book poses huge questions about the nature of suffering, the meaning of our existence, and the interplay of human relationships. Additionally, your son would gain the literary benefit of thinking critically, and learning that language acquires meaning from context.

    By removing this book from your school (without having read it in its entirety), you have deprived your students of a thoughtful and moving literary experience. I only hope that what Hermione says about Professor Umbridge banning the Quibbler proves true here: “If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!” (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix; “Seen and Unforeseen”)

  87. Lauryn says:

    I have read Looking for Alaska, and it’s one of my most favorite books by John Green. He is a very talented author and I have absolutely no idea why this parent is overreacting so much. There are a couple sex scenes but by fifteen, he should be old enough to handle them with maturity and wisdom. Actually, they aren’t even as detailed as this woman is saying. In reality, that book is an extremely good choice and it’s very enlightening, intelligent, and well written.. I am very dissapointed that they took the book off the reading list. And in reality this will probably make someone he students want to read it to see what the big deal was.

  88. Lulu Percia says:

    It saddens me that so many people will be deprived of experiencing reading “Looking for Alaska” especially when scenes are taken out of context. The book as a whole is more about life, death, and complex relationships. It teaches maturity better than most parents ever will. This is a video made by author of “Looking for Alaska” John Green explaining about how he has not written pornography.

  89. quicksilver says:

    i’ve read the whole book. several times. I recommended it to my younger cousin who is in high school. why? because there is nothing pornographic or inappropriate in the book. plus i happen to think that as an AP student(which she is) that is is smart enough to read a book and understand it. it’s women like the mother listed in this article that make the rest of the country think that the south is populated by morons living in a different time.

  90. Sarah says:

    Trying to get the book out of schools, like what, the school library? Come on, people… Don’t we all realize at this point that censorship is wrong– especially censorship of books. And John Green’s book?
    What was this lady thinking, calling it porn? PORN? Has she ever read porn? Obviously not, or she would realize that Looking For Alaska is NOT porn. This woman needs to stop being so ignorant of what things are like in modern times. Looking For Alaska is sooo tame compared to like… the REAL world (where this woman obviously doesn’t live…)

    Banning books is bad.

  91. quicksilver says:

    *she is (stupid autocorrect fail)

  92. Ian says:

    I understand why parents are tentative to expose their developing and admittedly impressionable children to difficult, real world themes and issues. But I also must say I am really confused at her characterization of the book itself. Porn? Pure porn?

    Honestly, I have read this book several times. Perhaps I harbor a slight bias toward the author, but her description is extreme and entirely uncalled for. There is a grand total of one (1) sexual encounter described within the book. What’s more is that the encounter is so uncomfortably awkward and unappealing that it would do little to encourage the activity to a reader. If anything, it would dissuade them. It is certainly nothing that could possibly be pleasurable to read in the first place. Not porn.

    Yes, the book contains mature themes. Yes, it might and probably should make parents uncomfortable. But the point is that your kids will be exposed to material miles worse than anything in John’s books every day with little to no guidance on how to handle it. This book gives the kids the opportunity to explore these situations in a fictional, controlled environment, especially with the guidance of careful analysis with and from an english teacher. They need to develop the skills to make moral decisions for themselves some time or another. If not in high school, when?

  93. Faizah says:

    You know what bothers me? Adults look at the ‘bad’ parts, instead of the overall message. This book is about a 16 year old boy who goes to boarding school to find his ‘Great Perhaps’, and along the way learns about life and death. Yes, the kids smoke, and yes, it is mentioned Alaska has sex with her boyfriend (but that’s not even in the book)- the only ‘objectionable’ thing in this book is the worlds most awkward blow job- it doesn’t turn you on, it makes you laugh.

  94. alexandrina says:

    this is utterly absurd. someone is worried about the “pornographic” nature of Looking for Alaska? they clearly did not read for content. the novel is about the death of a high school girl. sorry, spoilers. it explores youth, loss, and humanity, and is one of the most inspiring and touching books i’ve read. the pornography, and the sex, is a part of that exploration, while the novel more or less concludes that physical intimacy is not as important as emotional intimacy. a discerning reader, such as a student in an advanced class, would notice this — and, just to put it out there, if you read it, that’s obvious. this isn’t a parent being concerned about something reasonable. this is a parent being afraid that her child will learn to think for himself and make judgments outside of the value system that she has imposed on him.

  95. Deanna MacNeil says:

    After having read this article I urge everyone to watch this Youtube video by the author of Looking For Alaska, addressing this very subject. And to quote Mr. Green himself, stop condescending to teenagers.

  96. Amanda says:

    Author John Green’s response to such accusations:

  97. Jess says:

    With all due respect, I would have to disagree with the accusations made in this article.

    For one thing, by no stretch of the imagination does “Looking for Alaska” mimic porn. As the author of the novel, John Green, has pointed out, there is one sex scene, but it is “awkward, un-fun, disastrous, and wholly un-erotic.” It is intentionally placed, not to glorify sex, but to point out that sex can never stand in for emotional closeness.

    In addition, I have actually read the book, and can tell you that not once is there a single mention of drug use. Yes, there is drinking, yes, there is mention of sex (which is never described in explicit detail), and yes, a student dies, but none of those things are glorified.

    Nowhere in his book does John Green state that he advocates underage drinking. The death in the book is an indirect result of underage drinking, and to me, making someone die as a result of something is one of the worst ways to advocate that thing. John Green is not a pornographer, and his books are not instructions for how teenagers should act. His books are works of fiction, and they are to be taken as such.

    To see what the author has to say about similar accusations, please watch this video:

  98. Sam says:

    If Looking for Alaska is porn, it is easily one of the worst in the history of modern pornography. Too much plot and metaphor and deeper social meaning getting in the way of all that sex and drugs and rock’n'roll.

    But seriously, if only to authenticate the atmosphere of the text, one would have to inevitably conclude that without the underage sex, drinking and smoking, ‘Looking for Alaska’ would be about a bunch of high school kids playing pranks on each other, and then some girl the protagonist has a crush on dying in a car accident. Or something.

    To combat a point raised in this article, “It is described as a well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school.”is not an apt description of this text at all. This is taking basic plot points to their extreme. This is a text dealing with so many of the issues young people across the globe face. Issues of self-worth, loss, intimacy (both sexual and otherwise), friendship, and our place in the world both as individuals and as the smaller parts of a larger whole. To say it is ‘about’ porn, drugs, alcohol and death is a gross exaggeration.

    A few things to note about points Mrs. (I presume her marital status, seeing as her kids are raised in a ‘good Christian home’) Seal raised. One, there is no descriptions of sexual intercourse in the text. There are two main instances of sexual behaviour, both of which are done tastefully for the effect they are attempting to achieve. I won’t go into detail on that here, because people can draw this from the text if THEY ACTUALLY READ IT. Shocker I know.

    Two, Mrs Seal says “What literary benefit would my son gain from reading this book. It is pure porn. I was embarrassed to stand up there and read that, but as a parent I am teaching my son abstinence, then the schools promote and encourage sexual behavior.” This book is literally none of the things mentioned herein. I describe above why this book is not ‘pure porn’. ‘Looking for Alaska’ doesn’t promote sexual behaviour, and very much does not deal with the realities of sexual intercourse considering it doesn’t feature it. This book is exploring the ways in which youths attempt to connect with their peers and the world around them. The way the author chooses to confront this issue takes many forms, none of which pornographic in nation and all of which resonating with many layers of meaning, which unfortunately, Mrs Seal has decided to completely ignore.

    Three, Mrs. Seal states that there is literary benefit from reading ‘Looking from Alaska’. This is simply not true. We study literature in order to not only judge the value of the text within its own social context, but also within the context of the reader. In short, we read to explore what a particular text means to us, to identify the greater issues we can draw out of it relative to our own personal trials and struggles. And I don’t think there is anything that relates more to young people everywhere, at any time, than the rebellious activities that the characters of ‘Looking for Alaska’ engage in. In relating so closely to actual teenage behaviour, the author allows the reader the chance to identify with his characters, and through this, recognize the deeper social meanings within the text.

    Finally, if you don’t think the text is appropriate, then have your child choose another text. It’s as simple as that. No school will deny your right to do so on moral grounds.

    I find it abhorrent that people in society take texts at such literal face value, and ignore what’s really going on in the text. If you’re concerned about the content, read it, identify the concerning parts and the redeeming parts, and sit down with your child. Talk to them about what they’ve read, and reconcile it with your moral code. The text does not confirm or deny and particular lifestyle, it simply chooses a particular way to communicate a particular set of wider ideals. I wish this was more apparent to the people who are denying these children the right to read a fantastic book for their literature studies.

  99. Sam says:

    Oh, and to add, there is no drug use in looking for alaska. No marijuana, no cocaine, no heroin. There is alcohol and cigarettes. That’s it.

  100. Sam says:

    EDIT: Typos.

    If Looking for Alaska is porn, it is easily one of the worst in the history of modern pornography. Too much plot and metaphor and deeper social meaning getting in the way of all that sex and drugs and rock’n’roll.

    But seriously, if only to authenticate the atmosphere of the text, one would have to inevitably conclude that without the underage sex, drinking and smoking, ‘Looking for Alaska’ would be about a bunch of high school kids playing pranks on each other, and then some girl the protagonist has a crush on dying in a car accident. Or something.

    To combat a point raised in this article, “It is described as a well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school.”is not an apt description of this text at all. This is taking basic plot points to their extreme. This is a text dealing with so many of the issues young people across the globe face. Issues of self-worth, loss, intimacy (both sexual and otherwise), friendship, and our place in the world both as individuals and as the smaller parts of a larger whole. To say it is ‘about’ porn, drugs, alcohol and death is a gross exaggeration.

    A few things to note about points Mrs. (I presume her marital status, seeing as her kids are raised in a ‘good Christian home’) Seal raised. One, there is no descriptions of sexual intercourse in the text. There are two main instances of sexual behaviour, both of which are done tastefully for the effect they are attempting to achieve. I won’t go into detail on that here, because people can draw this from the text if THEY ACTUALLY READ IT. Shocker I know.

    Two, Mrs Seal says “What literary benefit would my son gain from reading this book. It is pure porn. I was embarrassed to stand up there and read that, but as a parent I am teaching my son abstinence, then the schools promote and encourage sexual behavior.” This book is literally none of the things mentioned herein. I describe above why this book is not ‘pure porn’. ‘Looking for Alaska’ doesn’t promote sexual behaviour, and very much does not deal with the realities of sexual intercourse considering it doesn’t feature it. This book is exploring the ways in which youths attempt to connect with their peers and the world around them. The way the author chooses to confront this issue takes many forms, none of which are pornographic in nature and all of which resonate with many layers of meaning, which unfortunately, Mrs Seal has decided to completely ignore.

    Three, Mrs. Seal states that there is no literary benefit from reading ‘Looking from Alaska’. This is simply not true. We study literature in order to not only judge the value of the text within its own social context, but also within the context of the reader. In short, we read to explore what a particular text means to us, to identify the greater issues we can draw out of it relative to our own personal trials and struggles. And I don’t think there is anything that relates more to young people everywhere, at any time, than the rebellious activities that the characters of ‘Looking for Alaska’ engage in. In relating so closely to actual teenage behaviour, the author allows the reader the chance to identify with his characters, and through this, recognize the deeper social meanings within the text.

    Finally, if you don’t think the text is appropriate, then have your child choose another text. It’s as simple as that. No school will deny your right to do so on moral grounds.

    I find it abhorrent that people in society take texts at such literal face value, and ignore what’s really going on in the text. If you’re concerned about the content, read it, identify the concerning parts and the redeeming parts, and sit down with your child. Talk to them about what they’ve read, and reconcile it with your moral code. The text does not confirm or deny and particular lifestyle, it simply chooses a particular way to communicate a particular set of wider ideals. I wish this was more apparent to the people who are denying these children the right to read a fantastic book for their literature studies.

  101. Braden says:

    Did they read the whole book? Seriously, I read that my freshman year of high school independently and I am no more sexually perverted than your average adult. In fact, I’m fairly uncomfortable with blatantly sexual situations. But ripping the sexual situations out of their context is what makes them seem bad, not the actual content.

    If you read critically (and I assure you that high school sophomores, especially those in an AP or Honors program can) you will see that the book is not at all pornographic. All of the sexual scenes are grossly un-sexy and are put into the put to show that personal relationships and intimacy based on sex does not equate to real youthful intimacy. It’s basically saying that the feeling of sitting under a blanket with your best friend by the fire during a rainstorm feels better and is better than meaningless, awkward sex. That’s the point that the book gets across, not that kids should go out and have sex and do drugs. If any kid gets that message from this book, I would be shocked.

    Furthermore, if the reason one wants to ban the book is that it disagrees with their personal point of view, the problem is not with the book but with themselves. No teacher condones overly-sexual and drug filled behavior, and if you fear that one book will dramatically change the viewpoint of your child, you need to talk to your child. Ask them what they feel about girls, boys, drugs, sex, and those other hard-to-talk-about aspects of life, because even if they are hard to talk about, the only way to learn how to be safe with these situations is to know what to do when one comes up. No book can convince, prepare, or reject someone from doing that.

  102. Sarah says:

    Have they actually read the whole novel? If they do, they will realize that it is actually not porn and is about a tortured soul looking for a way out. This is why Looking for Alaska was on the required reading. Yes, there are some inappropriate parts in it, but the novel teaches kids so many better things, and it provides reasons why these things happened and why they shouldn’t have. John Green, you can even ask him, does NOT condone such behavior. This book should not be on any banned books list because it teaches so many good things that everyone can learn. And as for the pornography, this novel is not explicit in any way shape or form. Please, next time you report on a book, read the book first. Had this reporter done this, maybe it would not seem as if this wonderful book was outright and “pure porn.”

  103. Looking for Alaska would be the worst “porn” ever written if it were porn, which it is not. Does it have some serious passages with sexual content? Yes. If they are discussing the one scene I am thinking of, I suspect it would make teens fear having sex more than desiring it. I bet the percentage of teens who love “Looking for Alaska” and became teenage parents is well below the avg % of teenage moms.

    I plan to let my son read the book when he is 15, but I can certainly understand some parents wanting to make an educated decision and allow their child to opt out of reading it. Give them that option.

    But calling it “porn” is ludicrous–the Bible has more “porn” by the apparent definition used in this article.

  104. Lindsay Macoy says:

    This story is horribly bias. There are absolutely no quotes from anyone on the other side of the argument. You could also have gotten a quote from John Green (you know, the author?), who is pretty easy to reach and has released many statements about this issue. You could also watch his video on Youtube, in which he addresses the issue. The novel is often taught alongside “Catcher in the Rye” which has incredibly similar language, as well as many other similarities. The scene in the book does not encourage teens to have sex, but rather the opposite. The purpose of it is to make readers realize the lack of emotion in the sexual act and how it affected the character negatively.
    While you only included facts in the article, you only have quotes and opinions from one (angry) person’s perspective.
    I don’t know where your description of the novel came from, but as one who actually HAS read the novel, I can assure you it is not about “kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol”. It is about a confusing relationship with a girl and how her death drastically affects a teen.

  105. Kate37 says:

    Oh dear lord. Looking for Alaska is porn? Have these parents actually read the book? I’m surprised they’re so freaked out over that passage, which is quite possibly the least sexy, least attractive “pornographic” scene ever written. You know why John Green included that scene? Because it’s juxtaposed with a much more emotional, much less physical scene. Empty awkward sex acts that aren’t remotely titillating next to a very close, very emotional, but very tame scene…maybe his point is that you don’t need to have sex to be in a meaningful relationship? You think? And I love this description: “It is described as a well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school.” Yeah, no. It’s about teens at a boarding school trying to figure out what the hell life is about and why they’re here. Yes, there’s drinking, there’s smoking, there’s one very very awkward sex scene, and there’s a death, but there is absolutely nothing in there that warrants the title of “pornography,” and there is nothing in there that is so awful that it should be banned. Ms. Seal needs to get the stick out of her ass and actually try reading the whole book before she tries to dictate what other students can and cannot read.

  106. Lindsay Macoy says:

    I meant to leave a link to John Green’s video in which he addressed this issue:

  107. Chris says:

    You can’t judge LfA based on that, the book is so amazing that two passages (I’ve read the book) can’t let you determine how the rest of the novel goes. Those passages are just meant to highlight how different Alaska is; the entire book, regardless of some questionable at the most passages is a great literary piece.

  108. The Goddamn Batman says:

    Maybe if you actually bothered READING the book, your opinion would change. Anyone who thinks Looking for Alaska is “pure porn” is only showcasing their own complete ignorance. And anyone who thinks that someone should be “put in jail” for reading a book like this is a fascist and a moron.


  109. John Church says:

    Parents like this are part (not entirely) the reason why public education and even some private education in America is rapidly declining. They are over protective and attempt (successfully) to force their moral and religious views upon everyone who attends their children’s school. If you don’t like the learning curriculum based on a moral/religious reason, find a new school. Your morals are not the worlds morals.
    Frankly freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and open world views are important to everyone’s development. Its important to read new ideas, even if they are outrageous, raunchy, and explicit. Why? Because how can you be expected to tell right from wrong, to know what exists as fact and fiction if you limit yourself to a tiny soap bubble, afraid of every book as a pin that might pop your sensitive views?
    Freedom of information, freedom of truth, freedom of knowledge. This country was founded on freedom, not on your right to censor every damned sentence that you don’t like.

  110. Ellen says:

    The old adage goes that you cannot judge a book by its cover. This is true, of course. But perhaps even more true is the fact that you cannot possibly judge a novel based on a single passage.

    Had I only read certain segments of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, I could have walked away believing that the novel was in favour of racism instead of blatantly opposed to it. Having read the novel, I know that this is downright untrue. The same principle holds for Looking for Alaska.

    Much like Ms. Seal’s son, I read this book when I was 15 years old. And, having read it in its entirety, I can say that it is beautiful. True, taken on their own, certain scenes could potentially be read as ‘pornographic’– but the point is that you cannot possibly take them on their own. The novel as a whole is beautiful, and it’s meaningless to concentrate on certain scenes while ignoring the novel’s over-arching themes. This novel is not meant to arouse anyone. It isn’t meant to encourage anyone to drink, or smoke, or have sex, or what have you. I can tell you for a fact that reading the “pornographic” scenes in Looking for Alaska didn’t make me want to have sex anymore than reading Bob Ewell’s racist remarks in To Kill A Mockingbird made me want to discriminate against others.

    That being said, I understand Ms. Seal’s concerns. She is trying to raise her son in accordance with certain values that the book does not reinforce, which is a fair arguement. But the fact of the matter is that a large portion of the world has different values from one another, and that her son will inevitably come face to face with morals that do not match his own. This holds true for everyone, be they right-wing or left-wing, Christian, Muslim, athiest, or what have you. Try as we might, we cannot tune out the rest of the world.

    It seems to me, then, that Looking for Alaska is a perfect introduction to this world of conflicting values. I need to again reinforce that reading about a certain action will not cause teenagers to imitate it (unless it is something they had been inclined to do already). Instead of banning the book, wouldn’t it be more helpful to talk about it? For Ms. Seal and her son both to read it in its entirety, and then have a frank discussion about whether or not they agree with it?

    I do agree with signalling that the book contains some explicit content on the curriculum, but not with removing it from said curriculum entirely. And I have to stress again that the book itself cannot be deemed pornographic because of one or two of its scenes. I would encourage Ms. Seal to read Looking for Alaska all the way through before making a call (or to at least do a bit of research as to its themes).

    And, if nothing else, I do believe that there’s value in frankly discussing the controversial topics brought up in the novel, such as premarital sex and alcohol. Regardless of whether you are in favour of or opposed to them, it’s a mistake to try and shield your children from both sides of the arguement. It’s just as Ms. Seal says– many children get pregnant or develop STI’s because they haven’t been exposed to safe-sex practices. And in a sense, Looking for Alaska is the perfect springboard for a discussion that could give them exactly the education that they need.

    Overall, while I do respect and understand Ms. Seal’s viewpoint, I cannot agree with her analysis of the novel. One has to read it in its entirely to appreciate it for what is: not a book about “kids gone wild with porn”, but a novel about love, forgiveness, and coping with loss. It is real, and raw, and sometimes controversial; but when examining its themes as well the subtext that runs rampant within it, one cannot possibly call it immoral.

  111. hannah says:

    i read this book when i was in 7th grade (it wasn’t required, it was for recreation). i am a huge fan and i mean huge fan of john green and i think you need to read the whole book before you take these passages out of context. the book has teenage themes which include experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex. These minor themes make you overlook the major theme of dealing with the death of a loved one and growing up. this book affected me in a way that i can’t describe. so just give the book a chance. most high schoolers can deal with the sex and drugs.

  112. Jane says:

    The rhetorical strategies and the misleading presentation of Looking for Alaska that this woman used in her argument discredits her. She read one passage of Looking for Alaska aloud to the board. That removes it from its context, which determines the meaning of the passage. It is meant to be part of a whole, not a stand-alone message. We don’t even know if she’s read the entire book or not.

    Her language is also extremely hyperbolized. Looking for Alaska is “pure porn”? No. It is a book about a boy who goes away to boarding school, and in the process is completely changed as a person. Yes, there is one slightly explicit scene, but it is a part of a complex plot that goes far beyond the physical. The scene immediately after reflects that, which strengthens my belief that this woman has not read the book all the way through.

    And her “liberal friends” were appalled? What counts as liberal? You can’t use that word as leverage in that way, because its definition is fluid and subjective depending on the person.

    As for the actual issue, she overreacted. There is one slightly explicit scene, but the rest of the book is cl Why does it need to go off the list entirely? Can’t she move to have an asterisk printed next to the book’s title, rather than removing it completely? That would easily solve the problem at hand without having to bar it from others.

    And just in case anyone is interested in the author’s point of view, John Green made a YouTube video concerning this very subject when Looking for Alaska was disputed by the Depew, New York school district in 2008:

  113. Liane says:

    Did anyone even really read the book? In the words of the author: ” it doesn’t take a deeply critical understanding of literature to realise that Looking for Alaska is arguing against vapid physical interactions, not for them”

    Stop thinking that teenagers lack the depth to read critically.

  114. Cathy says:

    Having read the book at age 14, I have to say that the theme of the book is solid, it’s a good book, and the “porn” is not porn. When wondering if something is porn, think: “Do I get turned on by this?” if no, it’s not porn.

    Mature theme warning, maybe needed. But to take it out of schools? You’re an adult. We’re all adults here. This book tells an amazing story that wouldn’t be the same if it were changed. I wish the books I read in school were so modern, interesting, and absolutely fantastic.

  115. Conleigh says:

    As someone who has read this book, it is the opposite of porn. The only sexual scene is awkward and in no way encouraging of sexual behavior. It does portray the experience of honestly, including the emotional confusion of being with someone you do not love. I think this book is appropriate for fifteen-year-olds, especially in abstinence-only households. Ignorance doesn’t produce abstinence, only confusion and more ignorance.

  116. Katie Sanders says:

    This book is not pornography – Seal is being ridiculous. As has been stated by the author, the scene to which she is referring, in which there is intense physical contact but little emotion, was added into the book as a contrast to a later scene. In the later scene there is an emotional relationship without the physical aspect. The author is arguing that emotions should come first – even with the scene taken out of context a person could probably grasp that, but it is very clear within the book. People who argue teenagers won’t understand the message are condescending – teenagers have the ability to read critically, and if they don’t, they should be given literature that allows them to acquire such an ability.

    Mr. Hall, please do your research before publishing a story. The author has already released a statement about cases such as these – he did not intend the book to be porn. Moreover, he is a role model to a whole online group of teenagers that call themselves the Nerdfighters, who hold online classic book clubs, talk about issues in the news, and try to ‘decrease world suck’. A big part of his following is because of his books, which while they may include vagrancy, do not condone it. It would be nice if the other side of the argument was presented. This is extremely poor journalism, and it is disappointing to say the least.

  117. Lisa says:

    So sad that the book is removed based on an exerpt taken out of context. This book will change people’s lives for the better, and it makes me sick that you took that away from somebody. One group of parents shouldn’t determine what the group collectively gets to read.

  118. Danielle says:

    I can guarantee you that the kids in that school are doing worse things than what’s in that book. I would also be willing to bet a lot of money that there are books in that library that are way more sexual than Looking For Alaska. Are they going to go through the entire library and read every book and make sure that every single parent is okay with it? No. That’s ridiculous. You should be happy that your kids are reading at all and over the moon if they’re in an advanced English class. If it was middle schoolers we were talking about I would agree that Looking For Alaska is a little too adult for them. But these are high schoolers. Once they walked through those doors they stopped being innocent.

  119. Alisa says:

    This is ridiculous. If every person on the board actually read the book, they’d realize that LfA honestly doesn’t promote any bad behavior. The characters display it, but you slowly see how all of that RUINED THEIR LIVES. It’s a more real and present warning against the dangers of such activities. I maintain that everyone should read Looking for Alaska. It’s an amazing book with an important message. Kids are going to be exposed to things like this in their lives; it’s better that they can read a good novel while seeing in a realistic manner what drugs, alcohol, and sex can end up doing to them.

  120. Nycole says:
    Here is a response from the author that addresses these allegations about the book. As someone who read this book in high school, I cannot disagree more completely with the accusation that this book is “pure porn”. It is beautifully written, has a wonderful mix of interesting character, and addresses a multitude of interesting theological questions.

  121. Amy says:

    To whoever described Looking For Alaska as “a well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school”, did you read the book? And if you did in fact read it, and that’s all you took away from it, you need to work on your reading comprehension skills. I would love if my high school taught this book to us. I wonder if half the people protesting this have even read the book. I understand if a parent has read the content and determined it unsuitable for their child, but I see no reason that should affect the rest of the kids.

  122. Caleb Way says:

    I believe that if all these parents took a moment to actually read the book they would see that it isn’t at all about drugs or alcohol. The part about sex is an 17 year old girl that has legal sex so that isn’t a big deal at all. To remove this book would only take away the students opportunity to read a fantastic novel that in fact made me cry several times during the reading. I am 16. I have my learners permit and i go to a normal high school where i know at least 15% of the students use drugs, 35% of the students use a form of tobacco, and i would guess 85% including 9th graders are having sex. I do not do any of this and reading is far better then letting kids do it. In every scene after drinking the main character comments how bad the hangover is and that in my opinion is quite a deterrent from drinking.

  123. Sarah says:

    John Green himself posted a video about 3 years ago in defense of Looking for Alaska when another school was trying to ban it.
    You cannot base your decision about banning a book based off of an excerpt, context means EVERYTHING.
    Check it out. The best information you can get about a book is straight from the author, and that’s what this is

  124. Emily says:

    A word from the author himself explaining the reasoning behind the one explicit sexual scene:

  125. Laura says:

    Damn, I feel sorry for these kids. They’re going to miss out on such a great book because their parents are so uptight.

  126. Historian Nerdfighter says:

    While it being required is pushing it, Seal obviously has not read the whole book. The theme is discovering whether the gurl named Alaska commited suicide. The author portrayed the teens in an honest and realistic way, and you denounce him for it? Also, if we ban our children from seing another point of view, aren’t we dening the freedom of speech? Who says your opinion is right, and his isn’t?

  127. Phineas Brown-Collins says:

    “If a teacher should get up and say these words in front of a class of students, they would be put in jail, and should be fired,” Seal told the Journal.

    Doesn’t Huckleberry Finn, a national classic, use the word “nigger?”

    Double standards are for the ignorant.

    The Bible also deals with materials involving sex and extreme violence, but there are likely no motions to remove that book from shelves in the area.

  128. Jacqui says:

    This is an outrage!! Looking for Alaska is one of the best books I have ever read and I am extremely offended that anyone should call it pornographic! It deals with themes VERY appropriate to a teenage audience and it helped me to decide that I shouldn’t have sex at my age, but mainly it helped me with issues of death and life because THEY are the main themes of the book. Put your stupid asterisks next to it’s title, but it shouldn’t be removed from any reading list and it shouldn’t be removed from any school!

  129. Raquel says:

    Parents, read the ENTIRE book before telling your kids that they can’t. It’s a hilarious book, and is NOT pornographic- quite the opposite, because if you read onward, you would see that the boy is a bit of a failure at everything except memorizing last words. This book is not about porn. It is about finding yourself, and meaning, and whether life is worth going through, and a girl who (SPOILERS!) passes away in the most tragic way possible and yet still lives on in the best of ways. Give this book a chance, you’ll be glad you did.

  130. clare says: straight from the author’s mouth. It is not a pornographic novel, one would know that if thy read the novel and not a few excerpts.

  131. Miranda Marshall Cosnowski says:

    Just another case of ignorant people NOT actually reading a book and then banning it.
    I can’t even count the number of errors in this article in regards to “Looking for Alaska”. It deals with sexual situations in a way that is realistic but is NO WHERE NEAE Pornographic. Its a Printz Winning, New York Times Bestselling book and author. I can guarantee thousands of outraged fans writing the school board.

    As a journalist, the writer of the article should have at least read the book. This country is so disappointing.

  132. As a Christian, a lifelong reader, and someone who works in Education myself, I’m a little bit troubled by Ms. Seal’s attitude.
    It’s been a while since high school, but I clearly remember reading through many books for class which contained sexual content and language. They did not send me spiraling into immoral behavior. They made me uncomfortable, yes, and challenged me, but in the end, they made me a more comprehensive thinker.

    I have read “Looking For Alaska” as an adult. It is not something I’d necessarily put on a sophomore required reading list, nor would I recommend it to fifteen-year-olds. I would, however, be open to having a conversation with my son if he were to read it, instead of fearing that it would be his ruin. Such an attitude is on par with those who believed that letting their children read Harry Potter would turn them into Wiccans.
    If she’d put half the effort of her school board crusade into a sincere and open conversation with her son, she might have taught him the value of critical thinking and the power of choices and consequences. It could have been a teachable moment. Instead, she chose to shield him.

  133. Connor Shea says:

    Hello Mr. Hall, or whomever this email may be received by. I’m a high school student in Colorado and I’ve just been referred to an article by your journal which appears to suggest that the book ‘Looking for Alaska’ is highly pornographic, without stating any examples or reasons other than that a parent in the district has suggested it. While I’m sure you’ve gotten plenty of e-mails along these lines, some of them very likely rude, I believe this article has some bias in it. You only stated why the book is bad, the author nor any fans of the book were able to state their opinion. As a writer for my own schools newspaper I’m unable to condone such actions. While you may disagree with me on the fact that the book is completely reasonable in its theme, I believe unbiased writing is incredibly important, especially on a more professional level. I realize that while this is most likely out of your control, rewriting this article to provide a point of view on the opposite side of the spectrum is something that every person deserves when having an article written featuring them, or their works.

    Once again I’d like to apologize for any impolite messages you may have recently gotten due to this article, John Green himself expressed concern on the matter and it appears fans of the book like myself are simply trying to protect a work of literature we strongly enjoy.

    Yours truly,
    Connor Shea

  134. Kathleen says:

    I have read “Looking for Alaska.” Several times in fact. While sex and alcohol do feature in the novel, they are by no means the center message of the novel nor are they portrayed in a manner that encourages children to partake in either. Instead of reacting to the words of a piece of literature, try reading it and respond to the greater message. After all, that’s what’s being taught in high school literature classes. Or would be if Karns hadn’t banned the book without question.

  135. Erin says:

    I read Looking for Alaska at the tender age of fourteen as a high school freshman of my own volition. While I can vouch for the fact that there is explicit content in the book, I find it wildly ignorant of the parents to so readily accept Seal’s opinion of the book and its “281 occurrences” that are presumably inappropriate for a high school sophomore. What I took from the book as an undeniably sheltered kid, was not the idea that drinking, drugs, language use or sex are good life choices. (And if you do have a problem with your child’s exposure to any of these things, I recommend that you take them out of high school all together. Any current student can vouch for the fact the school is a filthy place FULL of questionable content.)
    What I took from the book were a handful of beautiful life lessons. That the only way to escape the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive. That people are often broken but still beautiful. That despite all odds there is still hope and happiness to be found in the world. These are but a few of the ideas and truths I have carried with me since I read Looking for Alaska.
    I think of it as a crime of small-mindedness for other young people to be deprived of the opportunity to grow and learn from this book as I have. To this day, it remains my favorite. I implore you to read it for yourselves and understand why.

  136. Shawna says:

    I’ve read that book and tust me, it isnt all about sex, drugs, and porn. “Looking for Alaska” is a great story and the scenes she is talking about obviously go against what she thinks is the theme. I’m Christian too and I know that’s not what the book is about, and those scenes are not even one of the memorable moments in the book.I love this book and its story, and i hate when people take it out of ciriculums because they only see the negative parts and not the lovely thoughtful ones.

  137. Lina says:


    this is complete and utter ridiculousness. As a teen who has read, and enjoyed, looking for Alaska I can tell you that it is not a “story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school” or “pure porn”. If that is what you took away from reading this profound and inspirational book you seriously need to reevaluate how you look at life and literature.

    It is a beautiful book about how teenagers deal with loss, how they deal with reckless friends and growing up. I seriously cannot believe that you are tarnishing the good name of this book or the author. This is appalling and I hope you base your judgments on novels in the future on their message, not a few curse words.

    I am incredibly pleased that my school board is not as easily swayed by one woman who believes on enforcing her morals on other peoples children.

  138. Ebony says:

    Hey, sure you could say there are some more mature aged scenes in Looking for Alaska and maybe the school should have warned parents, but I think they missed the fact it is a wonderful book. Looking for Alaska is filled with deep thought, situations that are traumatic and terrible which people deal with everyday without forgetting humor. Teenagers need to learn how to treat sexual experiences though. Someone who is sworn to abstinence may want to have knowledge on the subject of sex, even if they choose to go there after marriage. The book persuaded me against sexual acts until I was sure I was in a committed and loving relationship due to what happened to the characters. I was not persuaded to run riot and do something with the next person I saw. As for saying the book is pure porn, clearly the mother has not read the book properly as it should never be called something so degrading.

  139. Jane says:

    If the entire book had been read and evaluated, then maybe this board would have seen that the entire purpose of the blowjob scene is that in the next scene the same boy has an encounter that is much more important and emotional, as while the oral sex meant nothing. The point is that love is more important than sex. This book is not a pornography. Looking for Alaska is a book about dealing with death and not living in fear. If Lori Seal doesn’t like this, then why stop everyone from reading this material that has moved and opened the eyes of teenagers to deeper thinking? Put an asterisks by it, don’t let her son read it, and have it be done with. And learn the difference between porn and literature.

  140. Margaret says:

    I am so disappointed with this school board. Looking for Alaska is a realistic novel that deals with contemporary issues which many teenagers, including Ms. Seal’s son, face. I first read this book when I was fifteen-years-old, and it helped me move past the suicide of one of my friends. A smart, honors student should be able to read a book objectively and not think that the author is glorifying so-called “inappropriate” behavior. Unfortunately, naysayers have been arguing that novels corrupt youth for hundreds of years. Adults should have more faith in their children, particularly older teenagers.

    I am also disappointed with the The Knoxville Journal for not printing the excerpt from which Ms. Seal read or indicating on which pages the excerpt may be found. Journalism should not be in the business of moralizing but, instead, should present the facts to its readership.

  141. Ryan says:

    What a joke.

    “It is pure porn.”

    You’ve clearly never read a pornographic book, woman.

  142. Carie says:

    I love all of John Green’s books. I feel that the book is a great example of literature. That woman shouldn’t try to prevent all those high-school aged young adults from having the book in their school. If she doesn’t want her son reading it, that’s her opinion and she expressed it. As soon as her son turns 18, he is an adult and can read the book as he chooses. “Looking for Alaska” is definitely not porn. The woman needs to be able to acknowledge the higher symbol of the story. I honestly dislike people like that. Once you start banning books, there is a big problem.

  143. Jen says:

    Looking For Alaska is NOT about “kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol,” it is about friendship and growing up and dealing with loss. There are no sex scenes at all, even between the two main characters – miles and alaska. There is sex/drugs/alcohol all over the television and the internet, so why would you ban a book that contained it anyway? The book is an absolutely beautiful read and denying your child the chance to experience such an amazing novel is wrong.

  144. Sophie says:

    It’s appalling how teenagers are sheltered nowadays. If anyone actually took the time to completely read the book, they would see that it is a beautiful insight to how TEENAGERS REALLY ARE. Sex is never heralded as some wonderful thing in this book, in fact, in one scene the main character talks about how he’d just like to hold the girl that he has a crush on, not sleep with her, just lie down and cuddle with her.

    When did we get to the point where cuddling was evil? And if you think the language in this book is explicit, go and visit your local high school. Your teenager might speak like an angel at the dinner table, but my god you should hear some of the things that come out of teenager’s mouths.

    The book teaches an important message, I don’t want to spoil it but something very bad happens to one character that is reckless and foolish, changing the whole scope of the novel. Sheltering your children from the fact that people do stupid things, and bad things happen sometimes, will get them nowhere in life.

    I know a lot of good christian boys who go to my high school. When I go to church with them, they are so different compared to when I see them in the halls at school. Don’t shelter your children from the “bad stuff.” Teach them that IT HAPPENS. Teach them how to DEAL WITH IT.

  145. Mia says:

    This is completely ridiculous. I learned a lot of things from “Looking for Alaska”, but none of them were even close to “go out and have sex.”

  146. Lena says:

    I have read Looking For Alaska, and I must defend it and refute these ridiculous claims that it is “pornographic”. The book tells the story of a 15 year old boy who transfers to a boarding school and the struggles, romances, friendships, and tragedies that he finds there. The book does contain scenes that involve sexual experiences, but they are integrated into the novel tastefully and realistically. There is mention of alcohol and drugs, but the novel in no way suggests that this is an ideal way to live. In fact, the main user of these substances and instigator of much of the “inappropriate” material meets a tragic end that leads readers away from such behavior. Most importantly, the novel urges its readers to imagine people complexly- a vital message to be passed on to high school students and people everywhere.

  147. Asa Plonsky says:

    The book only uses *one* sexual scene, and the author only used the scene to show how unemotional and empty it was. The scene is followed by a very close emotional scene, showing the differences. In regards to the swearing, come on. It’s life. We’re teenagers. We definitely hear worse than that on the bus to school. We’re more likely to apply ourselves to a book if it’s “risky.”

    Alcohol happens. Blowjobs happen. Swearing happens. Pranks happen. Porn happens. Banning a book from a school isn’t going to change anything. It’s just going to deprive your kids of fantastic writing.

  148. JackieChan says:

    IS THIS A JOKE? Clearly the parents have not read Looking For Alaska. They fail to comprehend that sex is part of the story telling. They instantly hear that there are scenes of (non-graphic) sex being described and go into a rage. The very fact that they refuse to read this book is proof that they fail to teach their children that a work of fiction is fiction. 15 year old kids who are sexually active are going to be whether or not they read this book. This is ridiculous and the word ‘Pornographic’ is being misused in this article. Pornographic would entail that the purpose of the book is to satisfy the reader’s hollow sexual desire. It is outrageous and appallingly close-minded for this article to spout lies about an excellent story in which the moments in question are so far off from the purpose and meaning that can be found in this novel.


  149. Julie says:

    This is absolutely absurd. Anyone who has read Looking For Alaska knows that while, yes, there is mature content, the message of the book is completely against “kids going wild with porn, sex, drugs, and alcohol.” John Green has stated publicly that he deliberately juxtaposed a highly emotional scene with an extremely awkward, unerotic, emotionless sex scene to emphasize the importance of love and to discourage the sex. If you’re thinking about banning a book, I suggest reading the entire thing first — not to search for “inappropriate content” and block out everything else, but to experience the entire book and to consider the purpose behind every scene.

  150. Josh Moore says:

    Of course, don’t show you’re child how the world is, shelter them and keep them in the dark most of their life. They don’t need to know anything about real-life scenarios or enlarge their vocabulary or anything. She is complementary right, taking a fantastic and inspirational book out of schools simply because a few parents are afraid “unruly” language is obviously the way to go.

  151. Ryan Milstead says:

    This entire argument is completely idiotic. Read the book for God’s sake; picking out all the curse words and one graphic scene is no reason to remove this book from the reading list and in no way makes this book some unholy creation. This book is about the consequences of all the actions that you say it promotes. Looking For Alaska is a book that changed my life and has changed the lives of many others. It’s a book about surviving adolescence, finding who you are, and dealing with loss. Give it a try, I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised. While you’re at it, take a look at this:
    John Green isn’t writing anything “pornographic.” Grow up.

  152. Dana says:

    If Looking for Alaska is porn, then it’s the worst porn I’ve ever read.

    Before you make judgments and threaten to remove Looking for Alaska from reading lists, I encourage you to read the book first. The entire book.
    I hate to make the inevitable Catcher comparison, but let me ask you this: where are the angry parents when Holden Caulfield hires a prostitute, smokes countless cigarettes and drinks with older women? Looking for Alaska does explore certain illicit activities, yes, but context is everything. The novel, aside from being extremely well-written, explores themes like love, death and growing up in a way that young adults can actually understand. The way these illicit acts are presented does not encourage readers to perform them – in fact, one of the many lessons the novel teaches is that physical affection will never be an adequate replacement for real, emotional love. It is entirely possible to teach this book while maintaining a high level of moral standards. In addition, the book is an excellent way to open up honest discussion between students and adults about issues that, whether you like it or not, are present among today’s young people.
    I encourage the school board to reconsider, and I ask Mrs. Seal to have a two-sided conversation with her son and let him make his own decisions.

  153. Jack says:

    Although this article strongly supports the side of the parents against this book it says nothing about the truth of Looking for Alaska. It doesn’t say anything about all that can be learned by the deeper meaning within this book. Although there are brief sexual and alcohol related encounters Looking for Alaska is an excellent book that taught me a lot about emotion and the connections we have with each other. I am a teenager and I have read this book and in no way has it brainwashed me or corrupted my mind. John Green’s book in no way glorifies or shines a pretty light on the brief mature events that occur within the book. Looking for Alaska is a great book that provides a lot of literary value in schools. A situation like this has occured before and the author, John Green, made a video in response. No matter what your view on this situation you should hear the point of view of the author before jumping to conclusions. Here is a link to the video.

  154. Lo says:

    The titles of novels are italicized, not put in quotation marks.

    More importantly, the novel does not encourage sexual behavior.


  155. Ehel says:

    You want to know what the author had to say about that same issue like 4 years ago?

    Please, people, before condemning something, you should perhaps try to find out what it is beforehand.

    Perhaps it might not be the best choice for a 15-year-old, but come to think about it, you might want to consider if some of those you try to protect from the harsh reality that will inevitably catch up with them, have actually had some experiences in that direction you don’t want them to read in this book.

    But isn’t that exactly what the author here tries to do? Show the world from a perspective that young people can understand. And isn’t school actually ment to teach young people about the world?
    What better way to do that, then with a well written book?

    It didn’t get awards for being bestselling porn. It wouldn’t have actually.

    Keep in mind, that talking about stuff is much more likely to help than keeping it hidden.

    Thanks for reading.

  156. Eve says:

    wow. if your child can read critically AT ALL, then he could very easily see the only horrifying awkward physical scene in comparison to the next emotional and deep scene was anything but promoting sexual activity. if anything, it’s against it.

  157. Katherine says:

    If anything, Looking For Alaska emphasized the awkwardness of teenage sexuality rather than glorifying or justifying it. If you don’t want your kid to read it, that’s fine. Don’t deprive me or my peers of a good read.

  158. Hannah Long says:

    I’m sorry, but this is one of the most biased pieces I have ever read, and I am sad to see this counting as “journalism”. If the author had taken time to dig a little deeper, they would have learned a very different story, I am convinced. If this mother is concerned about this book, then Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, and Catcher in the Rye should also be removed from schools. Actually, let’s just go ahead and not have students learn anything at all about life, people, and human interactions. Looking for Alaska is a very thoughtful, complex book that is not at all “pornographic”. In fact, the book ultimately makes the case that emotional closeness with a person is more important and more desirable than physical closeness, so, if Ms. Seal had actually read the book, she would see that it was in fact helping her in her quest to teach her son abstinence. If this woman doesn’t want her son to read the book, that’s fine, but I don’t see why an entire school should miss out on an amazing coming-of-age book – that many, many teens have said helped them deal with issues in their own lives as they figure out what it means to be human in this world – because of one person’s opinions and, in MY opinion, antiquated views.

  159. Anna Kendall says:

    This honestly upsets me. A book is not going to change a high-schooler’s views on his morals. I’m 15 and this is my favorite book. It made me think. About myself, and about my life. It’s about coping with growing up and losing someone and so many other things that teenagers go through. This is what the majority of us are like. Not me, I’m going to say, because drinking and drugs and sex right now don’t really interest me. But the book didn’t change my views on that. This is ridiculous.

  160. Brennan says:

    These parents are much too sensetive. Yes, there is a sex scene, but just because it is there does not mean it’s endorsing it by any means. As a high school student who has read the book, I can honestly say that nobody I know would ever have sex only because it was in a book. As far as I can tell, the decision to abstain is a choice primarily based on how it is viewed by each other’s peers.
    Why is it that books with murder (Of Mice and Men; Romeo and Juliet) are allowed, but Looking For Alaska isn’t? This seems to me that we are saying it’s okay for childern to kill people, but not for them to have sex. I don’t endorse sex, but we should at least be consistant with what we allow.
    Either way, all of the inapropriate activities mentioned in Looking For Alaska happen in high schools. Removing the book isn’t going to stop it — after all, they all happened in high schools before the book was written. From what I can tell, either you learn that cigarettes and sex and drugs are bad from what schools and parents tell you, or you don’t. The book isn’t going to change that. It also tends to be that the kids who DO all of that stuff don’t read much, so it seems to be there is an inverse corelation between Looking For Alaska and the activies mentioned in it.
    The book is good not because it focuses on the bad things teenagers do, but because it shows how connections are made, developed and broken. It shows how we react in the face of loss, and how our actions affect our outcomes. It shows how we don’t ever truly know anything of the future, and anything can happen without warning.
    So if you really want to take away a well-written and deep book because it involves acts less heinous than other “classic” literature, there is no way I can support you.

  161. Millie says:

    Interestingly enough, if you read the whole novel it actually teaches you something. That book was required reading for a reason. It is an amazing novel and I’ve heard more pornographic stores from my peers at my high school than what is written in “Looking For Alaska.” It’s a shame that the students will miss out on such a quality novel. It’s one of my favorite books. Also, the alleged porn takes up about two paragraphs on one page of the novel, and all the language deemed “inappropriate for high school sophomores” can surely be found in said sophomores’ school hallways. Teen books have no real authenticity without a few swear words and “Looking For Alaska” deals with many mature themes. It’s sad that adults can’t handle this book with an air of maturity. Seems like the students had no problem.

  162. Alyssa says:

    Wow. I’ve read that and that is completely ridiculous. I feel bad for those students for missing out on such an amazing book. Shame on the people who skimmed the book and put this up here.


  163. Ian says:

    Yeah better shelter your kids from everything so they grow up all messed up, stupid, and unable to deal with the real world.

  164. J. says:

    All I’m saying is, watch this:

  165. Andrew says:

    I first read this book as a high school sophomore and the parent who thinks this book advocates for sexual relationships probably wasn’t paying attention to what she was reading when she was ticking off every curse word. The contrasts between the books scenes with physical relationships and with emotional relationships show that the latter is much more fulfilling. The mature scene discussed is awkward and not described in any way that makes it seem like a very fun thing to do where as the conversations in some scenes put a much better picture of what a relationship should be like to the reader.

    This book left an impression on me when I was the same age as this parents daughter that I should seek out relationships that were based on an emotional bond instead of vapid relationships based on physical attraction and activities. Now I am a college senior about to graduate and have happily lived my life seeking only meaningful relationships that have always been based on the emotional and personal connection I’ve had with the person. This is all thanks to what Looking For Alaska taught me in that regard, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is in that age range.

    I think this parent does not give enough credit to teenagers to think for themselves and she might be impressed but what exactly her daughter might take from the book.

  166. Ricky says:

    This is completely ridiculous… If the person had actually read the book instead of taken something out of context they would have seen that it is actually promoting not sexual activities but a more profound connection with other human beings.

    One can see a very strong contrast between the only ONE section where two characters do have a sexual encounter (which is awkward and doesn’t feel right for either of them) and a very comfortable and deep moment that two characters share but in which there is no physical interaction…

    This book should be taught in schools and is a prime example of the ways in which parents more often than not underestimate the mental capabilities of their children.

    Stop trying to make them feel stupid and start letting them grow and become the future that we so desperately need…

  167. Flick says:

    Of course Looking For Alaska is on the reading list, it’s a great book! Get over yourselves and read more books like it.

  168. Birch Weber says:

    It is absolutely ridiculous that this book is considered pornographic. If the students at this school cannot handle a few real life situations, then they are more immature that most middle schoolers. John Green is a very good guy: wholesome, supportive, and always family friendly on his youtube channel with his brother, the vlogbrothers. He raises awareness about terrible things worldwide and promotes the raising of funds for charitable organizations such as, Kiva, and others. His mission is to “decrease world-suck and increase awesome”. He has no bad intentions, and his books are not considered pornographic in the least bit. He is an award-winning novelist and a good man. If you are so righteous about your personal beliefs that you cannot accept your children to read a natural, amazingly written book , than maybe you should reassess yourself. I am disappointed. DFTBA.

  169. Jesse says:

    The way in which this article portrays the book Looking for Alaska is unconscionable. If the author of the article, the parent or the school board had actually read the book, they would know that the book is an argument against using alcohol irresponsibly, and that the sexual encounters it describes are awkward and unenjoyable, far inferior to the nonsexual relationships it portrays, and it criticizes pornography harshly. The comment about drug use is way off base, unless they are referring to cigarrettes, which are also not portrayed in a positive light. I can understand why a parent or school board might be concerned with hearing about these concepts in isolation, but attempting to insulate 15 year old kids from any mention of curse words, alcohol or sex is laughable and misguided. This is an incredible novel that engages with the problems that many young people are faced with and is primarily concerned with coping with the loss and anguish of life, and learning to do so in a healthy way rather than resorting to escapism or despair. To characterize it as pornographic is disengenuous and hateful.

  170. I’m usually one with a very high opinions of teachers and adults in general, being myself, a high school student, but am I going to far to say that perhaps there were a few missing questions being asked? Number One: Why would a book even be considered to be required (by adults, mind you) unless it had literary merit? Number Two: what if society started basing their opinions of books only on a few passages? There would be plenty of books that would be “unacceptable”. The thing that we stress most in AP Literature is talking about what passages do to books as a whole. If I were to write an essay about a passage from a book without including what it did for the work as a whole, I would get a very low score on that essay. Passages from novels are very relative to what book they are in and to take them out of context and analyse them by themselves is pretty much inexcusable. Having read Looking For Alaska, I could sit here and type for hours about how awesome I think it is, but that’s not the point. If parents have a problem with a book that teachers and other adults think are good enough to make kids read, then I think that parents should have to read the book first. NOT just passages. NOT out-of-context passages (People are always criticizing the news for taking things nonfictional people say out of their context, so what’s right about doing it to books?). NOT only the parts that will support their opinions.

  171. me. says:

    Mrs. Seal, I find it ridiculous that because a book is not fit to read in your own eyes, you feel the need to ruin the reading experiences of dozens of other people. Book banning and censorship: two problems the world shouldn’t have to deal with.

  172. wtf says:

    what BS. if you think that what’s in Looking For Alaska is inappropriate then you must be some backwards thinking hillbilly or something. You have a 15 year old son, filled with that funny stuff called testosterone. Chances are he watches worse things every night. We lived in a sex-charged country. Get used to it or gtfo.

  173. Tina says:

    Well, this is ridiculous. I read “Looking for Alaska” on my own as a high school freshman and I am fine. I know students who don’t read at all and are in trouble with drugs, drinking and having babies. Seriously lady, you can’t shield your son from everything, he’s in high school! He will make his own decisions regardless of what he reads in class. Calling this novel pornographic is just ridiculous. Keeping your son shielded from the realities of the world and what people do is also ridiculous. I hope he doesn’t go crazy when he gets to college because of all the freedom he is going to have. (Also on a side note, in my high school English class we read “Beloved” by Tony Morrison which is about 18 million times more offensive and disturbing than “Looking for Alaska” I’m sure your son could have handled it.)

  174. Lauren says:

    This is the most ridiculous case of prudish behaviour that I have ever encountered.

  175. Conner says:

    They should have to read the whole book before they are able to ban a book. The link below is John Green explaining why his book is not pornographic.

  176. Alaska Young says:

    The thing these parents don’t seem to understand, though, is that Looking For Alaska is about much more than sex and alcohol (and btw, there were no drugs), it’s about life and death and how we see others and how people see us and pain and joy and hope… Adults might not like it, but that’s why it’s a Young Adult novel. Teenagers can benefit from this book, even if adults don’t seem to understand why. Not to mention it’s very well-written and if they do research on the author they will find Nerdfighteria and then these parents wouldn’t have to worry about they’re kids swearing or having sex because they will be made of awesome and would share that awesomeness to decrease world suck.

  177. Emma says:

    Anyone who has read this book would be astounded at the sheer ignorance of this article. If a parent wants to monitor her child’s reading habits, that’s one thing. Censorship is an entirely different matter. I’m disgusted.

  178. Joe says:

    You think that your 15 year old child isn’t thinking about sex, hasn’t watched porn, hasn’t at least thought about drinking and drugs, and won’t think about death?

    If you think that sheltering your kid from that will protect them in the long run, then you, frankly, don’t deserve to be a parent.

    If you think that, you’re doing more harm than any book can. Books expand the mind, nothing else.

    Not to mention that the scenes read were obviously read out of context, which is REQUIRED to understand the emotional weight of the scene.

  179. Brittney says:

    To describe Looking for Alaska as a “well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school” is outrageous. LfA does not glamorize any of those activities.
    There is an oral sex scene within the book that is extremely uncomfortable to read, as it should be – it was written to show how empty physical sex acts are when devoid of emotional connection. I think that is a wonderful message for teenagers.
    As for porn, the book contains a scene where two characters watch porn together, with the female character complaining about how demeaning, unrealistic and soulless it is.
    Drugs are not involved in the story at all, about from a tiny mention of a schoolmate who smokes weed.
    Underage drinking – yes. This is a book where a character dies driving drunk, so I hardly think it is a book without consequences.

    I read Looking for Alaska when I was fifteen years old. I proceeded to lend it to all of my friends – all of whom went on to buy their own copies. To say that a book that meant so much to us is “pure porn” – that is tragic. LfA is about friendship, about first love, about grief – and about religion.

    I am twenty-one years old now, and a speech and drama teacher in New Zealand. I am thrilled whenever I discover my students reading books by John Green. He is an incredible author, whose books acknowledge what it is to be a teenager, and more importantly, what it is to be human.

  180. ElainaW says:

    If students can’t openly discuss REAL LIFE in school, where else are they going to get it? I guarantee you that your “Good Christian Students” hear about, and maybe even experience the same exact things in their teen years. If you want to ban a book, don’t ban it for it’s sex scenes (which i promise are needed to show a point in the story), actually READ it. In my opinion, it is beautiful and should be taught to students due to the fact that it pertains to the life of the average teen. Of course i am not advocating drugs, underage drinking, or teen sex, but these things are real and people are effected by them every day. If kids can’t feel comfortable talking about these issues without being shot down by crazed parents, how else can they learn and be discouraged from doing them?

  181. Claire says:

    John Green’s Looking for Alaska is one of the best books I have ever read. It teaches one about loss and life and living, and what is sometimes the harsh reality of simply being a teenager. While there are some sexual scenes, none of them promote sexual activity, and the book can in no way be defined as porn. I simply wish that rather than judging the book that I know for a fact has changed the lives of many for the better, they would take a closer look at what the author is really trying to say. DFTBA.

  182. Sarah Miller says:

    I have read the novel Looking for Alaska, and I find it provides an insightful look into dealing with greif after the death of a freind. It deals with issues prevelent to teenagers such as peer presure,and the expectations of others. It does not glorifly the subjects of alchohol abuse or premaridel sex. The non explict sex scene is ultimately dissapointing to the charecters and serves to draw a contrast to the meaningful and thought provoking conversations held afterwards. I would encourage parents to read the whole novel before passing judgement, the school to reconsider, and students to read it anyway.

  183. Cal says:

    You’re dumb. This is a beautiful book. As the author says in his response to its removal by another school board, “It doesn’t take a deeply critical understanding of literature to realize that ‘Looking for Alaska’ is arguing against vapid physical interactions, not for them. Now, Hank, [his brother] some people are going to say that kids don’t have the critical sophistication when they’re reading to understand that. And I have a message for those people: Shut up and stop condescending to teenagers! Do you seriously think that teenagers aren’t able to read critically? When they read George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm,’ do they head out to the pig farms to kill all the pigs because they’re about to become communist autocrats?..” In short, please reinstate this book into your curriculum. It is wonderful and I personally benefited greatly from reading it. For more of the author’s previous response,

  184. Amber says:

    This is beyond ridiculous. I read this book in my sophomore year of high school. I graduated top of my rather large class and I have never done anything illegal. Honestly, did the parents in question read the entire novel? The relatively small mentions of sex are less vulgar and less lengthy than the stories I heard on my school bus on the way to middle school. I think the real problem here is the parent’s inability to approach the book from a mature and responsible standpoint. This book is one of the most touching and most influential books I have ever read. I strongly urge anyone who is considering striking it from his/her teenager’s reading list to reconsider.

  185. Someone who knows how to read says:

    Anyone who reads the book would know that it is much more focused on encouraging Teens to seek out an emotional connection rather than vapid sexual encounter, while being realistic to what the teens would do as a result of their raging hormones. The only scene that contains any “Sex” is purposefully awkward and generally unpleasant to read. That scene is followed immediately by a scene that is emotionally charged and much more enjoyable an experience.
    The author of this book has founded an entire subculture of Teenagers who encourage intelligence, charitableness, morality, and general Humanity.

    “If Looking for Alaska is porn, it’s the worst porn ever.”

  186. Caleb Humphries says:

    If “Looking for Alaska” is porn, it is the worst porn ever. Kids will run into these things in real life, regardless of whether there parents want them to or not. Shelter them, and they won’t know how to handle it. John Green is one of my favorite authors along with J.D. Salinger, and Kurt Vonnegut (who according this might as well be Larry Flint.

  187. Jared says:

    It’s cool if she doesn’t want her child to read that. I understand a parent being involved in what their own child reads and having a say so in it.

    HOWEVER, I don’t believe she has any sort of right to decide what other people’s children can or cannot read. If she had an issue, she should have approached the teacher directly, which, judging from the article, she did NOT do.

  188. Amber says:

    If you want your child to be touched by a book and better understand what goes on in life, then let them read brilliant books such as these. Just because a few crazy, out-of-line parents who doesn’t want their children to experience life EVER is going off about it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad book. It’s wrong that a few excerpts could give them the right judge the book before they’ve even read it.

  189. Toby Glover says:

    This is just another example of a crazy person taking what’s written too literally. If this misinformed parent had read the entire book, instead of just a few, out-of-context scenes, then she would have noticed that there are more scenes where the main character is dealing with heartfelt inner sadness (something that I, and I’m sure most teens felt) over both the loss of someone he feels he truly loves, and over the loneliness experienced during high school.

    This book spoke to me, and I’m appalled that a parent would be so eager to pull a book out of a school where I’m sure at least one student needs to feel that someone understands them. This book does that, and brought me (and countless others) out of their awkward inner shell.

    Who cares if the language is a bit crude? Last time I checked Huckleberry Finn wasn’t exactly a children’s book, and most schools still have THAT on their required reading lists. And don’t even get me started on Shakespeare… There are sexual jokes GALORE in some of his written works.


  190. Kara says:

    This shows a complete and utter misunderstanding of the book. Those parents need to read the ENTIRE STORY, learn how to CRITICALLY ANALYZE TEXT, and stop censorship!

  191. Sasha says:

    With all due respect to the publisher, this article is far more apalling than a singular scene in “Looking For Alaska”. that person should have read the rest of the book before complaining to the board. The “sex scene”, as you refer to it, was symbolism ofemotions and the hardships of highschool. The entire book is not about running around at a boarding school smoking cigarettes, having sex and consuming alcohol. It is about dealing with love and loss.

  192. Ela Darling says:

    As a former librarian and a current pornographer, I can assure you that this book is not porn.

    Also, I can assure you that no teacher would be “put in jail” for saying words from a book.

  193. Kyrstin Renae Wallace says:

    This is absolutely ludicrous. Anyone who actually reads this book will realize that the sexual nature of the passages mentioned are emotionless and are painted in a light of supreme awkwardness. If anything it de-glamorizes sex, and sexual acts devoid of emotion. This only proves that people are ignorant of the importance of literature, because some of the best novels in the world have sexual themes and yet because it is not out right stated in the novel it’s okay. It’s like saying that The Lord of the Flies doesn’t have allegory, to say that this novel is pornographic.

  194. Concerned, Concientous Teenager says:

    I feel this applies. How about some common sense from author himself, before we all go jumping into ridiculous conclusions?

  195. Alix says:

    Looking for Alaska is an amazing book with an amazing message. I suggest the parents and board members read the book in its entirety before coming to such unnecessary conclusion.

  196. Rami F. says:

    This is complete BS, the book is great and could in no way be considered porn, if that lady–who appears to be mad at life itself rather than the book–had actually read it all, she would realize that the book was deep and emotional, rather than “pure porn”

  197. Nick says:

    How insulted must her son be feeling right now? If she looked further into the book, or looked up a summary or review about it, she would see that it is NOT sex which the author is promoting; Looking For Alaska is about how close, non-sexual relationships are MORE IMPORTANT and more fulfilling than sex without emotional bonds.

    “Stupid human voices, always ruining everything.”

  198. The parent should be asking, “How can I as a Christian parent keep my child from living in the real world so that he shows up being as cult-driven, uneducated, unwashed stupid and seeped in occult fear as I am if you’re educating my child about the real world?

    Cult savages! Insane hate-filled filthy savages.

  199. Mel says:

    The kids do not “go wild with porn, sex, drugs, and alcohol.” There is no porn. There is one sex scene, which is uncomfortable and not at /all/ portrayed as pornographic. There is no drugs. There is only alcohol, and a few of the characters smoke. That’s it.

    It’s a beautiful book about things that some teenagers /actually/ do. This schoolboard and these parents need to get over themselves and stop underestimating their kids. Looking for Alaska is well worth teaching, as is any book by John Green, and I encourage the school board, and the journalists covering the story, to actually /read/ the book before passing judgment.

  200. Lenette says:

    This is a load of crap. If anyone actually read the book, they’d realise it is the work of one of the greatest authors and one of the nicest people you could ever know of. John Green hasn’t written this book (or the supposed “pornographic content”) for the purpose of arousing the readers. Banning this book is just stupid.

  201. Madeline Wilson says:

    Pornographic? Are you kidding me?

    It blows my mind that people are still trying to ban books in this day and age. I’m a Christian who practices and wholeheartedly supports abstinence, tries to avoid cursing, and was a teenager myself when I first read Looking for Alaska, and it was then and still is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. The difference between Ms. Seal and me, apparently, is that I understand that it’s necessary to read books about characters from all walks of life in order to become a well-rounded citizen who can imagine the world around her complexly.

    I agree that it would have been a good idea to place an asterisk next to the title, but I believe that Looking for Alaska is an excellent addition to any high school reading list. The book is vastly different from the others mentioned in this article, from the voice to the genre to the intended audience to the era in which the works were written. Looking for Alaska is about contemporary teenagers. Kids will see echoes of themselves and their peers in the characters, whether or not they choose to engage in any or all of the same activities. Anyone who believes that high school students today are immune to hearing waves of bad language, hearing rumors or true tales of sexual encounters and alcohol consumption, or seeing cigarette use (at the least) among their peers is totally kidding themselves. Looking for Alaska (and, indeed, all of John Green’s novels) will capture the attention of any teenager with its accessibility and will engage their imagination by provoking questions about such intellectual topics as Rabelais’s idea of “The Great Perhaps,” and isn’t that what so many kids find lacking in much of what they read in English classes?

    Stories like this make me terribly sad about some human beings’ insistence that they have to insulate their children in safe little bubbles to prevent them from thinking about things that might be unpleasant but might actually assist in the development of the children’s moral compasses if they’ve received a strong foundation at home. What could we accomplish if such vehement crusaders focused their attention on the real problems plaguing our world?

    Don’t Forget To Be Awesome, folks.

  202. Luke says:

    To say that The Fault in Our Stars in pornographic is not only incredibly short-sighted but also highlights how backward and smothering some parents can be. Unbelievable.

  203. David Lim says:

    What a sad, small, and insignificant part of the book to use as a justification to call into question Looking for Alaska. I am terribly disappointed in the school board for backing down, when they should have a complete understanding of what is in the book.

    If this book is improper, please, go on and read Oedipus, or Hamlet, or The Great Gatsby. I’m sure incest, murder, and the tearing down of the American dream are also improper for teenagers to read.

    Let me quote Looking for Alaska:

    “There comes a time when we realize that our parents cannot save themselves or save us, that everyone who wades through time eventually gets dragged out to sea by the undertow – that, in short, we are all going.”

    In short, the piece which this parent cites as improper simply is part of the way that Green uses to contrast sex with a intimate relationship with Alaska. The sex is used as a discouragement, it is not fulfilling to the characters in the book, and serves to highlight that the non-sexual relationship with Alaska is far more important and meaningful.

    The lessons that we teenagers draw from Looking for Alaska are many, it is one of the few novels we read that takes on some of the realities that teenagers not only face today, but have faced since at least World War II, when the modern teenager was established, and angst became expected. Dealing with the issue of teen suicide, inferred in the book, and the consequences of drinking, Looking for Alaska has far more deterrents to so called “improper behavior” than any literary scene may suggest. From a city that has dealt with teen suicide and the stress of extreme academic achievement, Green’s work is a gift to us teenagers that have spent the time reading his work. I can assure you, the kids that take the time to actually read their English books are not the ones you need to be worrying about in general.

    To borrow from Green, “Stop condescending to teenagers” we can infer information on our own, and as a high schooler, it is foolish of any parent to think that they can shelter their kid completely though high school and college.

    I hope that this school board will reconsider their decision. Although putting a “*” next to the book in the reading material MAY be acceptable, to take any further action would be foolish and irresponsible. You may as well destroy all the classic works of English at the same time.

    Best Wishes, DFTBA.

  204. Shiko says:

    There are so many problems with this article. To begin, if anyone on that board had actually read the book, they would see that the novel is not, in fact, about sex and drugs and alcohol, but about the relationship between two teenagers. The book itself should be considered evidence to your “Christian” beliefs. The scene in which the male character receives oral sex from his girlfriend stands as an example of why you shouldn’t have sex with someone you don’t love. It is one of the most awkward, uncomfortable, unerotic scenes I have ever read, and it is not in the least bit explicit. I can’t imagine what kind of cuts were made to that scene to make adults actually leave the room. The evidence against casual sex is only heightened when the same boy kisses a girl he is actually in love with. Contrary to the former experience, this tame kiss is full of truly tender and romantic feelings. This novel is an argument against casual sex. It shows how physicality can’t add to a relationship as much as a true emotional connection can. There is no reason your school board shouldn’t be behind this idea.

    What truly disgusts me about this article is how unaware you seem that you are contradicting yourself about sexuality in youth. Are you so blinded by the old-fashioned morals to which you cling that you can’t see the reason teen pregnancy continues to be an issue is that there is insufficient sex education? I assume the people arguing against this book have, at some point, been a teenager, and remember how much of a focus sex was. To scoff and leave a room by an extremely tame description of a supremely awkward sex act is so completely immature. To quote Nurse Seal, “They don’t warn against sexually transmitted diseases or the risk of pregnancy. I see children having babies after their first and only sexual experience.” Does hiding sex help this issue? Does shrugging off questions about how to have sex safely stop pregnancy? Do books like “Looking for Alaska” that portray physical love as awkward and incomparable to emotional love somehow encourage teenagers to become pregnant? Teenagers are horny. Expecting them to remain abstinent in this day and age is unrealistic and unhealthy.

    And finally, this article is so completely biased it makes me sick. As a journalist, you should consider it your duty to show both sides of an issue. When Seal states that this book “is pure porn,” it is your responsibility to state the counterargument. You should explain the defendant’s point of view as well. Think of all the poor, disheartened people who will open “Looking for Alaska,” in hopes of pornographic material and instead find an extremely well-written novel about friendships, patriarchal society, the meaning of life, and teenagers and their mistakes. Only showing one side of this argument completely negates the legitimacy of this “article”. What this school board is doing and what you as a journalist are encouraging is censorship of the worst and most harmful kind.

    I encourage you to create a response article explaining the board’s (and your) opinion as best as you can, but I believe you will find it difficult to argue with the solid morals and arguments created by the opponents of your case. To level with you, yes, there should be an asterisk next to this title. No, it should not be removed from the school curriculum or library.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.


    (P.S. It is also quite clear that you did absolutely no research on this book, because if you had, a single Google search of “John Green” would have shown you that he has a massive, loyal, fan following made up of intelligent, young critical thinkers who are not afraid to argue on his behalf. I hope you enjoy the flooding of emails you have no doubt received from these clever individuals.)

  205. Melissa says:

    Frankly, great literature–a term which, I believe, would include John Green’s novel–is above all honest. Looking for Alaska is not about exploiting sex in order to gain a following–the encounters are minimal,and they’re besides the point of the novel. It’s a novel about high school students who go from living in a world of nearly carefree youth to a world where they must cope with the tragic realization of their own mortality. People can’t read an excerpt from a novel and judge the entire thing properly. Alaska is no one-dimensional character that can be summed up in a couple of pages. Throughout the novel the narrator, Pudge, discovers how multifaceted Alaska is, and the readers discover this right along with him. An old friend of mine passed away recently, and this book helped me so much. If you’re going to read an excerpt from the book and judge it on that, at least read the essay that Pudge writes at the end of the novel–read its best as well as its “worst.” At least see the book for what it is–tragic, beautiful, and wonderfully insightful.

  206. Meredith says:

    I have read this book, and I think it is very well-written. Yes, it does have one or two instances of questionable behavior, but it certainly is not a sexually graphic novel in any way. If you look at the whole story, you see that it is a really insightful look into the meaning of life and death and the various ways people cope with unexpected tragedy while growing up.

    While it mentions that there are 281 “inappropriate” occurrences in the novel, the article doesn’t specify what those occurrences are. Did the parent actually read the novel all the way through or did they just skim the book looking to find something that was offensive to them?

    Also, you have to take high school English reading lists in terms of the whole picture. In high school, I was required to read Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, Of Mice and Men, and The Stranger, among other books. These novels deal with young lovers, adultery, and brutal murders, and they are no less “inflammatory” than Looking for Alaska. L4A just puts similar themes that have echoed in novels throughout history in a different time and place.

    The whole point of school is to learn different things, particularly things that are uncomfortable, or things that you might not agree with. That’s why we are required to go to school. We would not be who we are today as humans without learning things that are outside our comfort zone or presented from only one point of view.

    Finally, John Green has written other novels that the Knox County Board of Education could consider, including An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and most recently, The Fault in Our Stars. He is a fantastic author and has written some of the best novels I have ever read, including L4A.

    I believe the Knox County Board of Education should keep Looking for Alaska on the required reading list, or at the very least in the schools.

  207. Educated says:

    Interesting. Dear concerned parent. Does your kid have interned access? Have friends with internet access? Have a smart phone? Have cable TV? Go to school in the real world? If you answered “yes,” then I’ve got news for you: They have already seen much, much worse, and it wasn’t even required in a syllabus. The desire to raise children in a christian home and their exposure to profanity/sexuality/real life in an educational environment aren’t mutually exclusive. If they have taken “your values” to heart, they’ll view the material as ideas they want no part of and carry on. Wouldn’t you prefer them to be exposed to such material in a controlled environment and engage in proactive discourse (I assume) about it afterward? If you shelter your kids too much, they’ll may go buck wild as soon as they get out from under your thumb. A little controlled reality never hurt anyone, and if it came close, the recipient probably needed it.

  208. Rae says:

    This is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life, and I don’t know what you deem “inappropriate for high school sophomores” but whoever has decided that is clearly not involved with the real world. It used to be that girls would be married with children at least on the way by age 14 or 15, so how do you figure that knowing of the existence of sex and alcohol and drugs and death is “inappropriate” for people who could be having their own children? Nothing in this book says that drinking and smoking are good things or responsible decisions, just that they happen because they are facts of life. If we can’t even learn about things that happen, facts of life, in school then what can we learn about?

  209. Adam Maravi says:

    To call Looking for Alaska “pornographic” is to completely miss the point of the novel. It’s a coming of age novel and a part of “coming of age” is coming to terms with ones own body and learning about those of the opposite sex. The described passage is an extremely awkward sexual encounter that is meant to display the clumsy nature in which teenagers come to learn these things. Also, “pornographic” is a word that describes something that is meant to arouse, which this passage most certainly does not. If anything, it deterred me from sexual encounters for awhile as well.

    And curse words? Really? A fifteen year old boy has probably heard them before, and dare I say, used them with frequency.

  210. Harriate Slate says:

    Looking for Alaska is a work of fiction, echoing, to some extent, John Green’s own personal experience while at High School. It is a deeply emotional book that does not, in any way, encourage such actions as take place in the book. John Green’s description of how a teenager thinks, acts and speaks is very accurate, and I feel that this book, along with the writer’s other works, evokes great feeling of both sadness and humour within me, and it hurts me to hear them spoken about in such a manner.
    It is, however, not the first time when such an accusation has been made, and John Green has before had a chance to defend himself on the topic, and I encourage you to listen to what he has to say:

  211. Jim says:

    JOHN GREEN IS NOT A PORNOGRAPHER. – Here he is talking about a VERY SIMILAR situation with his book 4 years ago.

  212. Pause for thought says:

    It’s too bad that Lori Seal didn’t actually read the book, instead of weighing it based on the number of “such words” that her child has probably heard in the hallways and lunchroom, not to mention in any film or evening in front of the television. If she had, she might have understood that this book aims to provide the very illustrations she complains are missing of why these behaviors aren’t to be imitated. Like many of us growing up, the characters in this book struggle to find their way, and they make a number of missteps; they also face consequences, some of them severe. As a mother, I appreciate Lori Seal’s desire to protect her son, but as a Christian, I also realize that it’s not only naive but arrogant to think we can prevent our kids from ever sinning, and it flies in the face of the central message of grace. Children don’t benefit from being treated like hothouse flowers; character, like muscle, is built through use, and kids develop strong convictions when they are challenged to think about what they believe.

  213. JF says:

    Does this women truly believe that a teen novel shouldn’t be read by her 15 year old son because it has some sex/language in it? Lady, your kid is 15, if he’s still being sheltered from ‘bad language’ and relationships, there’s a problem here. Also, as an aside, you should think about teaching your son about contraception, so when he does have sex, he won’t be getting an STD or any pregnant — expecting your kid to not be in a sexual relationship is highly unrealistic, and educating him pro-abstinence only is what leads to unwanted teen pregnancies and STDs, not reading an amazing book.

  214. christie says:

    ‘Looking for Alaska’ is in no way ‘porn’ or even inappropriate for someone who is in High School. ‘Of Mice and Men involves murder and rape, ‘East of Eden’ (which I read in High School) involves sex, sexual abuse and physical abuse, among other things, and ‘The Scarlet Letter’ involves a lot of sex and adultery. These books are on the required reading list for the majority of public High Schools and contain worse instances of gratuitous sex than ‘Looking for Alaska’. Is the problem that this book is placed in a modern context? The main issues of this book are not sex, smoking and drinking, but the meaning of life and how to move on after the death of someone you love. What is more important, sheltering kids from reading about awkward sex and teenage drinking (and therefore making them want to do it even more), or teaching them (by reading a wonderful novel) how to love, and be adults, and cope with loss? Perhaps this school district and the woman who was so highly offended need to actually read the book, and then rethink their priorities.

  215. Em says:

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Children who are placed in an AP course are expected to have the maturity to read books with a little language. If we were to remove all books that suggested mature themes or had references that were deemed too advanced for high schoolers TAKING A COLLEGE CLASS, all books in the library except Dick and Jane would be removed. Books are a medium that help us figure out the world, and John Green’s books excel at this. He is a young adult writer who doesn’t speak down to adolescents, but instead on their level. He treats them as they need to be treated–as smart, mature YOUNG ADULTS. If parents and teachers cannot realize that their children need to be talked to as the mature people they are, then they are unfit to be around them. Looking for Alaska also does NOT portray pornographic scenes. If the adults in this situation had maturity and read the book, rather than taking lines out of context, they would see that the book promotes good values. The main character falls in love with Alaska, but the “pornographic” scene depicted shows him with another girl that he has no feelings for. It is shown as being awkward and not at all erotic, and is not a good experience for him. When he gets the opportunity to merely talk to Alaska, that is portrayed in a much more positive light, promoting sex only with those you love. The book shows a lot that teenagers are going through at that point in their lives: the threat of being away from home, death, peer pressure to have sex and use drugs, and unrequited love. This is a book that our teenagers NEED to read. Parents who ban this book from schools are immature and are only hurting their children. They need to grow up.

  216. Brittiny Morrison says:

    I am shocked and appalled that this was removed! It does NOT promote the behavior!! It is a book about coming of age and learning from the bad behaviors… Other schools have voted on the SAME thing and it STAYED in the schools! I am saddened by the fact that there are still places that are stuck in the past and so close minded and ultra conservative that they would restrict a students right to reading materials like that. It is a YOUNG ADULT novel, and wouldn’t be allowed to be classified as such if it weren’t suitable for YOUNG adults! John Green is an amazing author, and if parents would actually take the time to read the entire book instead of reading excerpts out of context, then they would see that it gives a good lesson. To take it out based on this excerpt, is like taking out Huckleberry Finn because it shows racism.

  217. David says:

    Please read the book in full before you judge it. And watch this video by the author:

    Describing this book as pornography is absurd and unintelligent.

  218. Takumi Fox says:

    How is this book pure porn? Has she even really read it? The parallelism that has to do with ONE SCENE wherein a blowjob sort of takes place and a scene later on where nothing truly takes place, but an emotional connection is reached, isn’t porn. It’s good literature. Would she have them take the whale-killing out of Moby Dick? What about changing the title, so it doesn’t offend by using an word she might deem “innapropriate”?
    How does her argument make sense? True, it does not speak on the topic of STD’s. But then again, they aren’t even touched upon, and there would be no reason for a warning to appear.
    Sometimes, I just don’t understand the minds of others.

  219. antimony81 says:

    Did anyone who criticized this book actually READ the book? There are scenes with sex in them, but they are awkward and not at all pleasurable to the teens participating because the point is that sexual encounters without emotional connection aren’t enjoyable. Also, to say that there is nothing to gain from this book is ridiculous. As someone who works with teenagers (and has taught this book), I can guarantee that students take many things away from this book. Most of my students found the sexual scenes awkward and hardly mentioned them. This book centers around a teenage boy who is trying to find his way in life after the death of a friend; the parts with sex aren’t even relevant. Before you criticize the teacher/district, read the book to see what it has to offer. You could also visit the link below to see what the author has to say about the “pornographic” label placed on his book.

  220. rachel says: The only word for this is ignorance. Please watch the above to be enlightened, and, just for giggles, try looking something up about John Green. He is a wonderful, inspiring person.

  221. Lori says:

    I am appalled that this is on the required reading list! I absolutely would have a problem with my children, now only 4 and 1, being forced to read a book with vulgar and sexual language IN HIGH SCHOOL. They are already exposed to so much at a much younger age than I ever was. I had a wonderful education in high school, and was never required to read anything this graphic (What ever happened to the classics?). I cannot believe that there is any PARENT that is “okay” with their CHILD reading a novel as such as a sophomore in high school.

    I’m in full support of Lori. As a CHRISTIAN parent, I will never allow my child to read a book such as this. (If they choose to when they are an adult, so be it). Just as I will not allow them to watch an X-rated film with violence, sex, drugs, and cursing at 14. Whats the difference? If you want to allow your child to be exposed to this, that is your decision, but it should not be forced on those that do not believe this is an appropriate or educational work of fiction for our children, especially when there are superior alternatives.

  222. Lauren says:

    That book is in no way pornographic. I happen to be very religious and would recommend this book to anyone who is a high schooler or older. The language Green uses in the book isn’t exactly great, but in the majority of high schools there are much worse words being used, even by the teachers. I am disappointed at the blind censorship used by this school district.

  223. J. Moore says:

    These are probably the same people that demanded that the offensive words be removed from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

  224. Craig Myers, M.D. says:

    I have had the oppurtunity to read “Looking for Alaska”. There are many graphic scenes in this book and I strongly support Ms. Seal in her quest to have this book removed from the required reading list in our public schools. If the The Knoxville Journal will not print the graphic passages due to extreme content then why should it be appropriate for a 15 year old to read. As an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, I see teenage pregnancy and kids with STD’s frequently. Do we really need a book that was required by our school system to promote behaviour that leads to these problems. I’m not in favor of censoring books, but books should be age appropriate. Let’s use our brains.

  225. Katherine Causey says:

    Looking for Alaska is an amazing and powerful book, other school districts that have attempted to ban it have faced outrage from the public. Yes there is one sex scene, it is brief, unfun, and not at all erotic, the author has spoken about this scene and it is clear just from a basic reading of the novel that he is trying to argue that physical intimacy can never replace emotional closeness, and that when people attempt to conflate these ideas it fails.

  226. Ella says:

    If you read the book, you would know that the “sex scene,” if it can even be called that” in “Looking for Alaska” is awkward and uncomfortable and definitely discourages sex between people who are not ready.

  227. Elizabeth Wood says:

    Thank you for covering this important story. Our society has sunk pretty low if any person in charge of school curriculum reads this book and approves it for young teen. Just because a trashy story is ABOUT teens doesn’t mean it is appropriate reading FOR teens.

  228. Emma Z says:

    Interesting how a book which (if you actually bother to read it rather than merely looking at some choice excerpts completely out of context) includes some pretty deep themes of loss, death, and life, not to mention characters who are extremely intelligent and one in particular who was abused as a child and goes to school to provide for his single mother. If this is porn, it’s definitely the worst porn I’ve ever experienced.

  229. J. says:

    Why would Knox County Schools ALLOW a list of books like these in the first place?? IF a teacher or student read this book out loud in a classroom they would be fired or suspended, right?? Disgusting & Reprehensible Choices made for our teens!

  230. Daniela says:

    I read “Looking for Alaska” when I was 18, almost a year ago, and I have to say I’m surprised these people believe John Green’s novel to be inappropriate for a 15-year-old to read. People seem to forget that teenagers have the capacity to critical thinking. The thing about Looking for Alaska is that it gives examples of what NOT to do and shows what happens when you do those things. The death shown in the book is the result of the abuse of alcohol and driving under its influence. It is a great lesson to be taught to teenagers who are about to get their driver’s license. They are probably exposed to access to alcohol at this age and need the knowledge to choose to not give in and do what “all the kids are doing”. Besides, it helps them learn to cope with the death of loved ones, which is a fact of life they will eventually have to face.
    To address the specific scene about oral sex: it is an strictly physical act, with no real feelings involved. It is contrasted with the very next scene, which involves a lot of feelings and no physical contact. It shows how the second option is so much better, because sexual acts without feelings don’t mean much.
    Basically, the stretch read by the mother of the 15-year-old girl was out of context. Anything can seem absurd out of context.
    Please, don’t limit yourselves listening to one side of the debate. If possible, read the book and make up your mind from that.
    John Green is christian, by the way.

  231. unreal says:

    If anyone knows this woman personally, you would realize she completely over reacts to every situation she is in. She has a huge chip on her shoulder and used this issue to gain attention and show everyone what a fine Christian woman she is. This was a self serving act on her part.

  232. Valerie says:

    I first read Looking For Alaska as a sophomore, and now, as a college freshman, I can look back and reflect on the impact that such a book has had on my life.

    The so-called ‘pornographic’ scenes are irrelevant. In a world where commercials, movies, news, and pop culture are filled with sexual promiscuity, students are besieged with influences and have lots of questions. They have an understanding of the world, and are incredibly curious about their surroundings, especially when it apparently conflicts with the morals and values they hold to be true. What Looking For Alaska does that is so important, is truly open the door for conversation about some of those topics. If I had a daughter, I would much prefer her to read this book and think critically about the topics than to watch the world’s moral laxity and blindly follow.

    Banning books such as this one, that present real-life situations, would not be educating our children morally. I believe in abstinence. I choose not to swear. However, it is because of this and other similar books that I can say I made the conscious decision to choose these ways of life. If I was sheltered from these influences, I would never have been allowed to question my own beliefs and therefore create a solid foundation for why I believe what I believe.

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