173: Book-to-Screen Adaptation of John Green's LOOKING FOR ALASKA
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
In this Unabridged Podcast episode, we discuss the Hulu screen adaptation of John Green's Looking for Alaska. In the episode, we only discuss the pilot episode of the series (which, spoiler alert, we all loved!), so check out the pilot if you're interested, and then give this discussion a listen! We also share our Bookish Check-ins and share some of our exercise preferences. Let us know on social media: which do you prefer—cardio or weights?
Mentioned in Episode
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Ashley said, "I'm excited to be reading Kylie Reid's Such a Fun Age. This one has been on my TBR forever, it feels like, and I've been wanting to get to it. I've heard such great things. Jen recommended that to me in our last recommendations for each other episode, so I had had it on my mind but hadn't gotten around to it, and I am really enjoying it. It's quite fast moving and compelling right from the start. The opening scene really grabs your attention because it is Amira who is in her 20s—I believe she's 26—and she is the babysitter of Briar, who is a toddler. Briar's mom Alix calls Amira on a Saturday night. It is pretty late, and she is frantic. They've had an emergency at their house, and she really needs Amria to come take Briar somewhere to get her out of the house, even though it's quite late. Amira had been at a party, and she'd had a couple of drinks, but she got a cab she went over to help them out. She takes Briar to the neighboring grocery store because they could just walk around the corner to it, and because that was a good place to just entertain her and walk around a bit. People in the grocery store, unbeknownst to Amira, start to pay attention to what's going on and to the fact that Amira is with this toddler, and it's quite late at night. There are a lot of judgments being made that seem to be coming from a attitude that is racist because Amira is black and Briar is white. And people are drawing all these conclusions because of Amira's party clothes because she had been out on a Saturday night with her friends and then was called in in this emergency situation. So things escalate in a horrifying, and it seems ridiculous way. And yet, it's totally believable that the people in the grocery store feel totally justified in getting the security officer involved. They won't let Amira leave and just walk back home with Briar. They start accusing her of things, and things start escalating. She's asking to take the child home, and they're saying she can't do that, even though she is clearly the adult in charge of the child at the time. The only thing that brings about a resolution is that she calls Briar's father, who is white, and he shows up and then everyone suddenly acts as if they have something else to do. So I think it was just a really powerful opening scene, and it captures a lot through the actions of the people there—so much of just the social attitudes of a lot of people in America. I think it's really fascinating because it's fast moving, and it's relatively light, like the book feels pretty light in some ways, but it's hitting on these really important issues. I think that Reid does such a great job of encapsulating it in a way that just shows the reader exactly how that stuff happens. Without spelling out everybody's attitudes, you can see the prejudice that they're bringing to the decisions that they make that lead to this escalating situation. So I just am really loving it so far."
Jen stated, "So, I just started this one. today. It is Kim Johnson's This Is My America. I'm doing this one as a buddy read on Instagram. So far, it is really powerful. It is a tough read. So the the synopsis says it's Dear Martin meets Just Mercy, and I think that's about right. So, it opens with a letter from a 17 year old named Tracy Beaumont to Innocence X, which is an organization that helps people who are on death row, and we find out very quickly that Tracy's dad is on Death Row and he has 267 days left until his execution. She and her family know that her dad did not commit the crime. The murder that he was convicted of committing, they know he didn't commit, because he was with them at the time that it happened, but through a series of very racially charged false witnesses and assumptions and people who thought they saw him at one time instead of another, he ended up being convicted, and she is just desperate to get this group to take up his cause. He had attorneys who did not push the right things, it is just one thing after another that she sees that led 10 years before to his conviction. So her older brother Jamal is a track star at their school, and he has gotten a scholarship to college and is being highlighted on a local television show, and Tracy decides that she needs to bring up her dad's case when she's on there to support her brother, which causes her mom and her brothers to be angry—not because they don't also want her dad to get help, but because it's supposed to be about Jamal, and so they're really frustrated.
"Okay, so that happens, and then before too long, she finds out that Jamal is sleeping with one of the white interns who works at this television station who has a boyfriend who is the son of a local police officer. A couple nights later, she and Jamal have not been talking much because he's been really frustrated. He comes home late at night. He's acting really weird, but they haven't been talking. So she's not sure what's happening, and then a few minutes later, the police come to their home, and they say that the girl that he is sleeping with has been murdered, and that they think Jamal did it. So she is now swept up in another case where she she knows that her brother wouldn't do it, but she also knows how guilty it looks. She understands that the fact that this girl was dating, the son of the local police officer is problematic in a major way. So it's sort of this investigation where she's trying to clear her brother. There are all these things that she's learned from researching what happened with her dad. So she's trying to put all of this stuff that she learned from her father's case into play to help Jamal, but it is it is really heartbreaking. I will say it is a tough read so far. I think it's powerful. I think it's really well done. It is not a light read at all. So I am loving it but I'm hoping things work out but it's really—it's really hard. So this is Kim Johnson's This is My America. I think it is doing a great job of illuminating . . . you know we read Just Mercy—I think it's a doing a great job for a YA book—a YA fiction book—of some of the same issues that Bryan Stevenson brings up in Just Mercy. It has letters scattered throughout that she's writing to this Innocence X Project. So it has that multimedia feel, or multi genre feel. But yeah, well, we'll see what happens. Like I said, I'm still really early in my reading. But it's it's it's tough."
Sara said, "I am reading a nonfiction book by Rachel Held Evans. The book is called Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again. I'm a Christian, like we've talked about before. So in my faith, the Lenten season is a very important time before Easter, and I also recently started supporting on Patreon, The Bible Binge podcast, which I listened to, but I hadn't been a patron for. But I think it's important to support people who you think are putting really good stuff out in the world, so I started supporting them. They have something called Faith Adjacent Book Club, and so this is the book club pick for that. This book is about Rachel's kind of struggle with her faith growing up in an more predominantly evangelical neighborhood, and in the Deep South, and how she read Bible stories as a child, and then how that changed as she became a young adult and then into becoming an adult and kind of questioning things. It's just about her journey with her faith and reconciling what she had always known, or had always been told with what she was coming to believe. It's just it's a very interesting, intimate portrait of how faith is a journey and what things can occur and how you can come out on the other side of them when you find yourself in doubt at some points in your faith. So, I'm really enjoying it. I'm listening to the audio book. She reads it. Tragically, she passed away a couple of years ago--suddenly, I mean, she was fairly young. So, it's also kind of heart wrenching to listen to because you know, because I know that she was a young mother. So it has a lot of layers to it. I think that it's a really brave book, and I'm really enjoying listening to her faith journey. So, that is Rachel Held Evans's Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again.
Main Discussion: Looking for Alaska TV Adaptation
Here is an excerpt from our discussion on the book-to-television adaptation of John Green's Looking for Alaska.
Jen said, "So, I've not read the book for a really long time, and I have watched all of this series, so I watched it on my own, I think last year, and so I will say the series for me is at the forefront of my brain. So, I can't even talk about what I liked about the book and hope to see in this series because I think about the series. What I love about this story is I think that Miles is such a rich protagonist, and I think Alaska is sort of that manic pixie dream girl stereotype, but she's also more than that. So I really like the way she is layered. I do think Miles in some ways objectifies her, but I also think he sees her as a real person. So I like the way each of these characters can connect to sort of a teen stereotype. But also, there's so much more than that. And I just think I was rewatching this pilot last evening, and they're so smart in a really believable way. I teach high school kids, and they are this smart. I know people sometimes challenge that they are this smart. I just kept laughing. I just think they're so funny, and sometimes they're funny to be cruel, and sometimes they're funny to be friendly. But they're so smart. And they just I love the way they talk to each other."
Ashley stated, "So it has also been a long time for me for the book, but I think one thing that I remembered really well is the portrayal of Miles as a character and his desire to figure out who he is, but also uncertainty about doing it. I really wanted to see that because in some ways, it comes across that Alaska and the Colonel and Takumi have a better sense of self than Miles does, and some of that is because they've been on their own longer, and that definitely precipitates them maturing at a faster rate. But I feel like I remember that from the book, like just his awkwardness, his uncertainty about what to do and how to do it, and I wanted to see that. I think that so far that that plays out really well in this series, and I feel like like Jen said, I think that we get a good sense very quickly of what each character is like, and for sure for him you see his desire to fit in. I mean, that moment when the Colonel is asking him what makes him not ordinary, and he's like you have how many seconds to say something, and he is frantic to have something that distinguishes himself. I just think all of that is really genuine and plays out like real life, and you want to stand up for him and be like, man, I don't want to prove anything to you, you know, but instead he is able to distinguish himself, which I think is really cool. You're seeing him kind of get his feet on the ground. So yeah, that really works for me, and it was something I wanted to see."
Sara commented, "I think in the book, John Green does this really amazing job of setting a tone and a mood for the whole story. You can almost feel—I mean, it's not college, but it has a college vibe to it because they're all on their own and they're doing college things. Things I didn't do until I was in college. But they did just have this mood to it. I think that was what I was hoping to see, and I'm really curious to see how they captured it in the series. I think they did a great job with the soundtrack and taking several really well-known songs, but doing a different arrangement to them, like the one that sticks out to me is 'Milkshake.' But I mean, just the way they use current songs and songs that are even songs from the time—from 2005 when this is supposedly set. They just did a really good job of creating that whole mood and that theme and the just uncertainty of being in a new a new person in a new place. I just thought all that—I thought the mood and tone of the show was great. And it really mirrored the way that I felt when I read the book."
Be sure to listen to our Give Me One segment to find out which each of us prefers—cardio or weights?
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