Recommended reading for the anti-literature high schooler

Sharon Kim, Parents & Teachers Editor

A great number of students in America become averse to reading once they enter high school thanks to the convoluted sentence structures and exasperating lengths of the textbooks and novels they are assigned to study. Consequently, many high schoolers miss out on some of the most enlightening tales and exciting stories of their lives. Contrary to the popular perception that books are boring, the world of literature is filled with novels that students can find accessible, relatable, and intellectually electrifying. For the parent or high school educator weary of the hatred their students may have for reading, “Oryx and Crake,” “Nineteen Minutes,” and “Pride and Prejudice” are three simplistically written, highly extolled novels that will both excite and instill thought within the jaded reader.

Margaret Atwood, with her expansive volume of sci-fi novels, has established herself as one of most highly esteemed authors of the 21st century. The narrative that has earned her the most praise is the haunting dystopian book “Oryx and Crake.” The novel tells the tale of a trio of teenagers living in a futuristic society. The main characters Jimmy, Oryx, and Crake experience the horrors of human extinction, biological terrorism, and unrequited love. For those students who enjoyed movies like “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012,” Atwood provides an enthralling and skillfully woven story about the potential future of mankind. Though “Oryx and Crake” has only been on bookstore shelves for eight years, it has already garnered massive critical acclaim. Adults may wish to suggest this novel to their children, who will be glad to read a book with such an action-packed plot and simple vocabulary.

“With ‘Oryx and Crake,’ Atwood created a very believable apocalyptic world that stemmed from advancements in technology,” senior Zac Wickham said. “Her message was loud and clear; I felt a tad uneasy about the notion that mankind can potentially bring upon their own destruction, especially considering how fast our technology grows.”

For the drama-loving high school student, Jodi Picoult’s “Nineteen Minutes” is a riveting favorite. Picoult had previously taken American media by storm with the movie release of her novel “My Sister’s Keeper.” In “Nineteen Minutes,” Picoult again renders a heart-breaking story for her readers as she explores the devastating consequences of a high school shooting. The shattered community must then try to overcome the tragedy, and the characters struggle to sustain relationships with their families and friends in the midst of their extreme grief. To add further controversy, Picoult creates the image of the gunman as a victim and characterizes the attacked students as petty villains. She is a master of theatrics; the story contains the seat-gripping drama of “Gossip Girl” while retaining the heartwarming, bittersweet poignancy of “The Notebook.” Parents and teachers should definitely recommend this novel to teens interested in tales of passion and violence between realistic, complex characters.

“Jodi Picoult is a writer like no other. She is unbelievably talented. Her novels are captivating from the very first page,” senior Leslie Otanez said. “They are books that demonstrate how love, courage, and family can overcome any obstacle. Picoult portrays real-life situations with real people who touch our hearts and will forever remain a part of us.”

Many adolescent female students will be able to easily identify with the sweet stories of internationally acknowledged Jane Austen. The only non-modern author of the three, Austen’s strong female protagonists have captivated readers across the world and enabled her to retain her prestige as one of the most reknowned women novelists in history. Though she speaks in the language of early 19th century England, her stories are written in a simplistic style easy enough for the modern teenager to understand. Her most famous novel, “Pride & Prejudice,” captures hearts with its sassy and intelligent heroine Elizabeth Bennet, who must deal with the turbulences and tribulations of meeting suitors, obeying her family, and falling into a romance with an upper-class man.

“‘Pride and Prejudice’ is definitely one of my favorite books of all time. No matter how many times I read it over again, the plot is always interesting,” junior Jinan Mannaa said. “I love how Elizabeth Bennet starts off hating Mr. Darcy but by the end of the novel overcomes her prejudice.”

It is the quintessential love story, where two characters ignore the disapproval of their families and societies and embrace their overwhelming feelings for one another. For the adult tired of trying to force students to read “boring” classics, the book’s melodramatic and touching storyline will prove that old English literature can in fact be fun.

Reading does not have to be the chore that many students believe it to be. With guidance toward the right book, a young adolescent can fall into a whole new world—a world of adventure, a world of romance, the world of literature.