Looking for Alaska

The Boarding School Microcosm: The Unrealistic Portrayal of “Real Life” in the Institutions of Young Adult Literature College

Young adult novels set at boarding schools typically feature protagonists that encounter trials not necessarily representative of life outside of fiction on their journey towards adulthood. Rather, these texts amplify struggles and cause problems for the characters detrimental to their coming of age, presenting overwhelming problems of inaccuracy in boarding school novels and rendering them less realistic than merited. Death, alcohol abuse, and behaviors indicative of mental unwellness occur without much (if any) adult interference, and the young characters struggle to succeed within the academic environment at a level that would, in reality, be just cause for concern among their peers and superiors alike. Novels such as J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, and John Green’s Looking for Alaska portray the dramatization of adolescent struggles within a boarding school setting, serving as prime examples of the tragedies of youth as depicted in a fictional school setting. Thusly, the archetypical boarding school novel within the young adult category of literature stresses trauma too heavily and cannot be considered truly reflective of reality.

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