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< Looking for Alaska
The Fault in Our Stars

Looking For Alaska by John GreenBook Cover of Looking for Alaska by John Green

Everybody has a talent. Miles Halter’s is knowing the last words of a lot of different people—people like the author Rabelais, whose enigmatic last words "I go to seek a Great Perhaps" inspire the sixteen year-old to leave his family home in Florida and enroll in Culver Creek, a co-ed boarding school in Alabama. There he makes a new circle of friends: his roommate Chip, a scholarship student whom everyone calls "The Colonel;" Takumi, a slyly funny Japanese-American rapper; and sweet-spirited, Romanian-born Lara, who has trouble pronouncing the letter "i." But most importantly he meets Alaska, a beautiful girl who "had eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor." Miles quickly falls in love with this reckless, quirky, endlessly intriguing girl. An omnivorous reader, Alaska introduces him to a new set of last words — those of South American liberator Simón Bolivar — that pose an intriguing question, "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?" It’s a question that takes on a deeper, more poignant resonance when an unthinkable tragedy invites Miles to examine the meanings of life . . . and death. (these comments are from the Publisher). Click here to read the full book review.


1. Miles tells the story in his own first-person voice. How might the book differ if it had been told in Alaska’s voice or the Colonel’s? Or in the voice of an omniscient narrator?
2. The Colonel says “Everybody’s got a talent.” Do you?
3. Miles’s teacher Dr. Hyde tells him to “be present.” What does this mean?
4. John Green worked for a time as a chaplain in a children’s hospital. How do you think that influenced the writing of Looking For Alaska?
5. What do you think “The Great Perhaps” means?
6. And how about Bolivar’s “labyrinth?”
7. In the “Some last words on last words” section at the end of the book, Green writes, “I was born into Bolivar’s labyrinth, and so I must believe in the hope of Rabelais’ Great Perhaps.” What do you think he means by this?
8. Has this novel changed the way you regard human suffering? And death?
9. One of the characters, Dr. Hyde says, “Everything that comes together falls apart.” Do you think the author agrees? How does he deal with this Zen belief in his novel?
10. Alaska loves these two lines from the poet W. C. Auden: “You shall love your crooked neighbor / With your crooked heart.” What do these lines mean to you and why do you think Alaska likes them so much?
11. Miles writes, “Teenagers think they are invincible.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
12. Was it necessary for Alaska to die?
13. This novel is filled with wonderful characters. Who is your favorite? Why? Do you know any people like these characters?
14. Can you imagine Miles and the Colonel as adults? What might they be like? What professions do you suppose they might choose?
15. Discuss the book’s unusual structure. Why do you suppose Green chose this strategy for telling his story? How else might he have structured the same material?

These questions are provided by the Publisher.

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The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenBook Cover of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love(these comments are from the Publisher). Click here to read the full book review.


1. John Green derives his book's title from a famous line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." (I,ii,139-140). What does the line mean—and why would Green have used it for his title? Even more important, why would he have altered it to read, "The fault in our stars" rather than ourselves? How does Green's meaning differ from Shakespeare's?
2. How would you describe the two main characters, Hazel and Gus? Do either of them conform, in behavior or thinking, to what we normally associate with young cancer patients? How do the two differ from one another...and how do their personality traits and interests complement each other?
3. What did you make of the book's humor? Is it appropriate...or inappropriate? Green has said he "didn't want to use humor to lighten the mood" or "to pull out the easy joke" when things got hard. But, he said, he likes to write about "clever kids, [and they] tend to be funny even when things are rough." Is his use of humor successful? How did it affect the way you read the book?
4. Green once served as a chaplain in a children's hospital, working with young cancer patients. In an interview, he referred to the "hero's journey within illness"—that "in spite of it, you pull yourself up and continue to be alive while you're alive." In what way does Green's comment apply to his book—about two young people who are dying? Is theirs a hero's journey? Is the "pull yourself up" phrase an unseemly statement by someone, like the author or any reader, who is not facing a terminal disease?
5. What do you think about Peter Van Houten, the fictional author of An Imperial Affliction? This book's real author, John Green, has said that Van Houten is a "horrible, horrible person but I have an affection for him." Why might Green have said that? What do you think of Van Houten?
6. Hazel considers An Imperial Affliction "so special and rare that advertising your affection for it feels like a betrayal." Why is it Hazel's favorite book? Why is it so important that she and Gus learn what happens after its heroine dies? Have you ever felt the same way about a book as Hazel does—that it is too special to talk about?
7. John Green uses the voice of an adolescent girl to narrate his story. Does he do a convincing job of creating a female character?
8. At one point, Hazel says, "Cancer books suck." Is this a book about cancer? Did you have trouble picking up the book to read it? What were you expecting? Were those expectations met...or did the book alter your ideas?
9. Do you find some of the descriptions of pain, the medical realities that accompany cancer, or the discussion of bodily fluids too graphic?
10. How do Hazel and Gus each relate to their cancer? Do they define themselves by it? Do they ignore it? Do they rage at life's unfairness? Most importantly, how do the two confront the big questions of life and death?
11. After his chaplaincy experience, Green said he believed that "life is utterly random and capricious, and arbitrary." Yet he also said, after finishing The Fault in Our Stars that he no longer feels that life's randomness "robs human life of its meaning...or that it robs even lives of people who don't get to have full lives." Would you say that the search for meaning—even, or especially, in the face of dying—is what this book explores? Why...or why not?
12. How do Hazel and Gus change, in spirit, over the course of the novel?
13. Talk about how you experienced this book? Is it too sad, too tragic to contemplate? Or did you find it in some way uplifting?

These questions are provided by the Publisher.

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