As a high school student, reading can be hard. When I was in high school, I was constantly busy with sports, events, and other classwork. Sometimes I struggled to meet reading deadlines — even though English has always been my favorite subject and is now my college degree. With the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, required reading can serve as either solace or a stressor for young adults. As I enter my senior year of college, I am looking back at what I have considered the most influential novels assigned to me in my high school years. Even though this year does not look how I expected, I find comfort in knowing I still have the opportunity to read and discuss novels that, like those below, have opened the world to readers before me.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple tells the story of two African American sisters who are separated at a young age and for twenty years live very different lives across the world from each other. Celie, who lives in rural Georgia, writes to her sister Nettie about the hardships she endures in letters that form the novel. Alice Walker’s novel is one of pain and strength and displays an unbreakable bond between sisters.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien writes 20 short stories inspired by his time in the Vietnam War. Each vivid and imaginative episode blurs the line between fact and fiction and avoids generalizing the experience of war. O’Brien depicts horror, longing, sadness, and even joy in his quick-paced and unforgettable book.
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Marjane Satrapi’s memoir Persepolis illustrates her coming-of-age story as the Islamic Revolution takes place in Iran. The graphic novel follows Satrapi as she grows and changes with the world around her. This gripping tale of a young girl longing to find herself is important for school-age kids while remaining an interesting read for adults.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
S.E. Hinton uses powerful characters to reveal a disparity of class and violence between two groups of teens, the Greasers and Socs, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Outsiders was published as Hinton turned 18, and through time it continues to prove it is a novel for teenagers written by a teenager.
Lawson Freeman is a fall Literary Programming intern at TBF.