The new classics: student suggestions bring fresh ideas to summer reading

The night before school starts in the fall many students are doing one of three things:

1) Skimming the summer reading book, desperately trying to find how it ends.

2) Reading the ever-faithful SparkNotes version of the story.

3) Doing nothing and praying the teacher won’t give a quiz or, even worse, ask them to write an essay about it.

But the problem, for the most part, isn’t that students are unwilling to read over the summer. It’s the books that are being assigned that seem to make them avoid the task.

So what books would they prefer?

In a recent Octagon poll, the most suggested book for summer reading was “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.

“The Fault in Our Stars” is narrated by a 16-year-old cancer patient, Hazel Lancaster. At a support group she meets Augustus Water and falls in love with him.

“It’s one of those books that when you start reading it, you have to read all of it at once because it’s really intense,” sophomore Aidan Galati said.

“It’s great for the summer because it’s really emotional and you’ll want to read it alone.”

Junior Melissa Vazquez said she suggested the book because it’s important and relatable.

“It’s modern and a lot of people can connect with the cancer aspect,” Vazquez said.

“Also, it’s not something guys would go out of their way to read, but if it was summer reading, they would enjoy it.”

English teacher Brooke Wells agrees. This year, Wells incorporated “The Fault in our Stars” into the freshman English curriculum.

Wells said his reason for picking it was that many students suggested it. In addition, he said he liked the strong female protagonist.

Many students echoed the sentiment that books about modern teenagers would be great summer reading choices.

Sophomores Emma Brown and Sydney Michel suggested  “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Saenz.

The novel revolves around two teenage boys, Dante and Aristotle, who strike up an unlikely friendship that eventually grows into love.

While some said that “The Fault in our Stars” is a book more likely to be read by girls, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” is told from a guy’s perspective.

The book is a coming-of-age novel about two teenage boys.

“I think it’s relatable for teenagers because we’re constantly questioning what we should be doing,” Brown said. “Both of those boys come into problems similar to the ones we have and have to figure out how to overcome them.”

Other students advocated for books with historical context.

Junior Micaela Bennett-Smith and freshman Elena Lipman said they thought “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak would be a great addition to the sophomore summer reading list.

“The Book Thief,” written from the point of view of Death, is about the Holocaust.

Bennett-Smith said that this would tie into both English and history for sophomores since they study World War II in the World Cultures class.

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett was also suggested, because it ties in with the junior U.S. history class.

The novel is about African-American maids working in white households during the 1960s. It switches back and forth between the points of view of the African-American maids and the white writer.

“At times it’s really funny, and at times it’s heartbreaking,” senior Ryan Ho said. “It really hits you that all these things probably actually happened.”

English teacher Patricia Fels has taken the English and history connection into consideration when choosing her summer reading for next year.

She said the sophomores will read a biography of the person they want to do their sophomore project on.

In addition, she is assigning “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell to familiarize the sophomores with expository techniques they will use in the project.

Junior Anna Wiley prefers classics, particularly “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë, being read over the summer.

“They stuck around for so long for a reason,” Wiley said.

She said she particularly enjoyed “Jane Eyre” because Jane is a strong-willed woman.

Junior Grant Miner suggested “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

The humorous novel follows Arthur Dent, a radio-station employee, in his intergalactic adventures across space and time.

“Kids need to know how to make writing funny,” Miner said.

Junior Erin Reddy said she prefers books that are more interesting to teenagers, such as “Lord of the Rings.”

“Who knows? People might actually read it,” Reddy said.

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